Dedication, determination drove Smith to big leagues

Chuck Smith is a study in perseverance.

The Memphis native spent more than a decade playing baseball in the minors and overseas before finally making it to the Major Leagues in 2000. Smith, 46, now the mayor of the village of Woodmere, credits the Boys & Girls Clubs of Cleveland with helping him develop his drive to succeed.

“I spent a lot of time at the Mount Pleasant Club, and it gave me a foundation for sports and for life,” Smith said. “It gave me a platform not just to play baseball and basketball but to take classes in everything from sewing to leadership.  It was a wonderful place to learn and grow as a person.”

Smith, a three-sport star at John Adams High School, is the newest member of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Cleveland Alumni Hall of Fame. His amazing professional career peaked in June 2000, when he made his Major League debut with the then-Florida Marlins at the age of 31.  He went on to post a 6-6 record and a 3.23 ERA that year and was named the Marlins’ Rookie of the Year.

Smith started playing Little League baseball at Thurgood Marshall when he was 9.

Smith played both basketball and baseball at Central Arizona College, a two-year school, before moving on to Indiana State University. In 1991, he was signed by the Houston Astros as a non-drafted free agent; he would later make stops in the Texas, Florida, Chicago White Sox, Colorado and Milwaukee organizations at places all over the U.S., including Kissimmee, Fla., Asheville, N.C., Quad Cities, Iowa, Oklahoma City, Okla. and Birmingham, Ala.

Smith, who needed Tommy John surgery just two years after his Major League debut, also spent time in the Independent Northern League and played professionally in Taiwan, South Korea and Mexico. “It was a great ride – 17 years of traveling around the world with my family,” he said. “I never worried about the salary.  After all I was playing baseball.”