Canaan Smith stepped to the plate on Mother’s Day for the fifth time attempting to do something no Charleston RiverDog had done in 22 years. Smith was a home run away from the cycle.
After collecting a double in the first, a single in the third and a triple in the fourth, Smith had the chance in the fifth to get a home run to complete the cycle. Knowing the situation, Smith tried to hit a home run and lined out to second base.
When he came to bat again in the eighth, Smith reverted back to his normal approach. “First three at-bats, I had the double, the single and I had the triple. For sure, the home run was in my head, but I tried to go for it on my fourth at-bat and I didn’t get it. I told myself, stick to my game plan, stick to my approach. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t you have a three-hit ballgame, a four-hit ballgame, but I’m thankful that it happened and it was a great experience,” Smith explained.
That approach has led to a fast start with the RiverDogs. Smith has put up a .339/.410/.529 slash line in 33 games. In his last 10 games entering Sunday’s game, Smith has hit .386 picking up 17 hits in that stretch.
Smith has bounced back after a tough year in Staten Island in 2018. He slashed .191/.281/.316 but those numbers don’t tell the whole story. He had injured his hamstring and landed on the disabled list. “Being in Staten Island was very hard. It’s a short season, you don’t have that many at bats. You go through a little slump, it’s hard to come back. I went through a little slump and I was injured so I was very frustrated.” He did finish the season strong however producing a .264/391/.415 slash line in the final 17 games of the season.
His 2018 finish earned him a promotion to Charleston roaming the outfield for the RiverDogs. During his hot start, Smith credits his approach at the plate. “You go in and you just keep swinging in. I’m hot right now and I’m just going to keep swinging. And if I’m ever in a slump, I’m going to keep swinging. I’m just going to keep swinging,” Smith said.
Smith is a patient hitter who typically posts high on-base-percentages wherever he goes. “Lock it in, stay focused. When I’m focused, I feel no one can beat me. I have the same approach each and every time. I try to stay on the fastball as much as I can and if not, then do my best to react. Narrow down the plate and hit the ball.”
Smith also strives for consistency at the plate. “As a hitter, I try not to change too much. I try not to get in my head. The one thing I’ve really been working on is just having an approach, locking it in and focus. That’s all I need to do and it’s just working so far.”
As an outfielder, Smith shows good speed with a strong throwing arm. He’s working on improving his first step when a ball is hit to the outfield. “First step for sure. Getting to the ball quickly. Getting it in. Helping my pitcher out. Get outs when I need to get outs and do my job.”
Smith also has learned from his tough year in Staten Island to be a better player in Charleston this year. “I think being in Staten Island last year and coming in a little bit overweight and a little overconfident, it was a wake-up call for me to get my butt in the offseason workout program. Trust the people around me to try and make me better. This year I came in being in the best shape possible. Improve my overall game and be ready for a 140 game season because it’s hot out here in Charleston.”
He’s also enjoying the instruction from the RiverDogs coaching staff. “ Each and every day we get better. I love playing for Cisco (defensive coach Francisco Leandro), I love playing for Julio (Mosquera, manager), Chappy (defensive coach Travis Chapman), Coby (hitting coach Greg Colbrunn). They bring out the best in me for sure.”
Smith has enjoyed the change in scenery. “I love it here. It’s a great atmosphere, great fans, beautiful city and I’m blessed that we’re winning and we’re doing well right now.”
Smith’s 2019 season has been day compared to night at Staten Island in 2018. “I’m just a guy here to have fun, try to win, try to be better, trying to get to Yankee Stadium, try to win World Series, just you know, be a happy, go-lucky guy.”