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From the Mound to Music

February 21st, 2018

By Gage Smith

Growing up, I was never the most talented player on any of my teams. However, I did pride myself on being one of the most dedicated. That was truly put to the test my sophomore year of high school.

After having a good freshman and sophomore season at third base and pitcher, I was cut from the team because I was “too small”. I refused to accept this and luckily, I was blessed enough to have the opportunity to transfer to a private school for my last two years of high school. My junior year at my new school went okay, but our team was very good and I wasn’t a regular starter. The following summer, I wanted to do everything I could to make the dream of playing college baseball a reality no matter how unlikely that dream may be.

I went to several showcases and tryouts that summer. The more that I went to, the more I realized how hard this was going to be. I was nowhere close to the best prospect at any of the showcases. In no way did I stand out among the crowd. I was going to have go about things a different way. At one of the last showcases of the summer, I was throwing a bullpen for scouts that once again was going unnoticed. A righthander that throws 84-85 with a sub-par breaking ball was of no interest to anybody. So, I decided to drop down. In the middle of my bullpen, I began throwing submarine. I was still throwing 85 and the scouts’ heads started poking up. They asked if I had a breaking ball and I proceeded to throw an impressive slider, considering it was the first time I had ever tried doing so. It was at this time that I started getting interest from colleges.

I had a very good senior season and was eventually asked to walk-on at Florida State University, my ultimate dream. Of course, I accepted and was excited to get started. At our very first practice, I was asked to throw to three hitters, two of whom were All-Americans. A double and two home runs later, I immediately began doubting my ability and my right to be on that team with such talented players. Needless to say, I got redshirted my freshman year and did not pitch an inning in a real game.

I worked hard the following summer and was ready to go when practice started my sophomore year. I pitched well and was ready to prove myself in real games this year. The night before the season starts, we always have a dinner for the team and boosters. As I was walking out the door to go to it, my coach called me and told me to stay where I was at. He came to my house and proceeded to tell me that they were blindsided by a roster limitation rule they were unaware of. They cut me.

At the time, this was the worst day of my life. Baseball had been the center of my life for so long and now it was seemingly over. I wanted to give up. It was a couple days later when God spoke to me. This was very out of the ordinary for me and completely unexpected. My faith had taken a backseat the last few years, but as I laid in my bed one night I began to pray. By the end of the prayer, I knew what God wanted me to do. It didn’t make sense to me at the time, but God put a desire in me to keep working and getting better; that Florida State baseball wasn’t done with me.

Logically, this makes no sense. They redshirted me my first year and cut me my second year. Why would they want me back? But sure enough, I got a call before the next season and they wanted me to come back out and give it another try. This is why that situation was such a “God thing”. Things like that don’t happen. And it changed everything for me.

After not having played in a real collegiate game for over two years, I went on to lead the Atlantic Coast Conference in appearances the next three seasons. I was the go-to guy out of the FSU bullpen and collected several awards throughout those years. And it was because I truly trusted God for the first time in my life. Previously, I had been doing everything for myself, but God showed me that I had a real platform where I was at. He showed me that I could be a light for Him and make a real change in peoples’ lives.

In 2014, I was awarded the opportunity to pursue my dream of playing professional baseball. I was drafted by the Detroit Tigers in the 25th round and went on to play the next 3 years in the Tigers and Brewers farm systems, getting as high as Double-A.

I had a great professional career with even better numbers than I had in college, but the toll of pro ball slowly chipped away at my love for the game. My body was breaking down, going 7 months out of the year without seeing my now-wife, and watching baseball go from a game to more of a business were all factors in my decision to ultimately retire. It was no longer a dream of mine to make it to the big leagues. I had new dreams that I wanted to pursue.

In the winter of 2016, I began playing live music around town and at church with my wife. It was a huge step out of my comfort zone, but we both love music and that is what I wanted to pursue. It was my new dream.

We started to make a name for ourselves and just recently released our first single, Apollo, under the band name South of Echo. The song is about destroying the negatives in your life and going after what you truly want. It’s available on all major music platforms and we are getting very good feedback on it. We are still working on finding our actual sound though so we have a long way to go.

Baseball taught me so many things that have made me the man I am today. It mainly taught me how to deal with adversity and what is required to succeed. As you can tell from my story, I got cut from basically every team I played for, but I didn’t let that stop me. My faith, work ethic, and perseverance got me to the level that so many dream to be at.

I have taken these skills over into my next chapter of life. The music business is very similar to baseball. It’s a grind. I am working a full-time job in marketing while also doing everything I can to book more gigs around the region, write new songs, and gather the funds necessary to pursue this dream. Also similar to baseball, nobody believes you can actually make it. It’s a tough business that a majority of people do not succeed in. Great. I’m going for it.

To connect with Gage on LinkedIn, click here. To listen to South of Echo’s single, visit their website at www.southofecho.com. South of Echo can be followed on Instagram @southofecho.

2 Responses to “From the Mound to Music”

  1. Uncle Charles & Aunt Mare says:

    We have such admiration for you two. Love you

  2. Alethea howard says:

    I’m so proud of you both and have no doubt y’all will succeed

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