07/18/2007 2:50 PM -
By ALAN HOSKINS, Special to The Kansan
The club’s Senior Director of Ticket Operations, Smith went head-to-head against Carter and former Royals Amos Otis, Frank White, Bill Pecota and Ed Hearn in a pre-game home run contest prior to Willie Wilson’s Second Annual T-Bones Classic Legends exhibition game..
A benefit for the Children’s Miracle Network, the home run contest and 7-inning exhibition matching a Providence Medical Center team of ex-Royals against an Ethanol team of Carter, Hall of Fame shortstop Ozzie Smith and other ex-major leaguers, the exhibition drew a crowd of 4,773. “We raised some serious money for a great cause,” said a delighted Wilson.
Each of the six home run participants got a total of 12 outs to determine the three finalists for the contest but it was trimmed to just two when only Carter and Smith had more than one. Carter, who had four home runs in his first two stints, added four more in his final round and looked to be a runaway winner only to have Smith make things exciting. With three homers going into the final round of three outs, he hit two towering blasts with one out and two more with two out to close to within one before hitting a fly to center.
“Without a doubt, it was the greatest thrill I’ve had in baseball,” said Smith. “To have the opportunity to hit alongside guys like Joe Carter and Frank White and Amos Otis…how many people ever have a chance to do that? Then when they all came up to me and gave me high fives showing their support for me is something I’ll never forget.”
The ex-Royals were impressed, especially White and Otis who made sure Carter was aware he was only one homer away from being caught with some good-natured ribbing. “Rick Muntean, our general manager, said Carter’s eyes got big when I hit the last one. I was trying so hard to hit another that I popped it up,” said Smith.
It was the first home run derby for Smith, who played two years of college baseball at Cypress Junior College before transferring to the University of Kansas and eventually finishing at the University of California-Riverside. As a high school senior, Smith was drafted in the 31st round by the Cleveland Indians and later by the Los Angeles Dodgers. “I was 6-foot-6 and weighed only 190-195 pounds so I decided to go to KU,” said Smith.
Carter also homered twice in the exhibition game but it wasn’t enough as the team of ex-Royals won 3-2 on key hits by White and John Mayberry. Steve Trout got the pitching win after Al Fitzmorris had pitched the first three innings. Managed by Fred Patek, other ex-Kansas City players included shortstop Bert Campaneris, Joe Azcue and Greg Pryor.
Former Dodger star Tommy Davis managed the red team which also included Ozzie Smith, Bob Dernier, Jay Johnston and former Houston fireballer J.R. Richard, who can still throw some serious heat, much to the chagrin of several of the ex-Royals.
Despite a short rain delay, the exhibition not only provided plenty of action on the field but a mecca for autograph fans after the game and at a post-game VIP benefit. “People say they don’t like to bother you for an autograph but we should be thanking them for coming out,” said Amos Otis. “When they forget you and don’t want autographs is when you start to worry.”