Story By Cassie Campise
Basha High School baseball player Tanner Smith is headed to Oregon State University to continue his baseball career this fall.
Smith committed to OSU when he was just a sophomore and recently signed his letter of Intent to officially play at the next level.
“It feels great, from the first day being committed to now being signed, it’s a whole different world that I’m ready to get into,” Smith said.
From the first phone call with the coaching staff, Smith felt like he was already a part of the team. On his visit to Corvallis, he loved the atmosphere and how everyone was 100 percent into the baseball program in the surrounding community. It drew him in.
“All the fans I met, all the players and coaches, all that type of stuff, they just made us feel like I was at home by the first time I stepped on campus there,” he said. “Ever since my first time there, I just felt Iike it was the right place for me, where I fit in best.”
Smith’s journey as a ballplayer began at the age of four. His family would spend every night in Minnesota playing baseball in an empty acre lot next to their house.
By the age of seven, he was playing on youth teams and at nine he was playing club ball. But the turning point for Smith was at 13-years-old. He decided to make a huge decision to move to Arizona and live with his club baseball coach.
“I knew when I was presented with the opportunity to come down here, it was kind of a stepping stone,” Smith said. “I feel like even though it was a big jump at the age of 13, I really felt like it was a much-needed step for me to grow into a different baseball player and become more of a mature human being and that’s just how I knew I wanted to be at the next level.”
Smith finished his eighth grade year and went right into Basha High School, where he played all four years for head coach Jim Schilling.
Schilling views Smith as one of the best players in the country. He proved that by being invited to the Super 60, where he performed well and is listed as one of the top-five catchers in the country.
“He is one of the best players we have had come through here,” Schilling said. “We have had draft picks and Division I kids, but he is just a phenomenal young man and the future is really bright for Tanner.”
Smith’s knowledge of the game is so extensive that his teammates call him coach Tanner. He always leads by example and is the undisputed leader of the team.
“I’ve never seen a leader like this,” Schilling said. “It’s unbelievably special. It’s not normal. He really takes on the team as his and he does it every day.”
Off the field, Smith is mentoring sixth, seventh, and eighth graders with coach Schilling or helping his younger brothers 14U baseball team. He wants to give back to many of the younger baseball players that he is surrounded by.
“On and off the field I think he’s a great leader that loves to teach others and help educate others in the sport,” said Smith’s mom, Kristi.
Transitioning into college won’t be a problem for Smith. With hard work and dedication, he hopes to play somewhere on the field as a freshman. He plans on studying business management and his goal is to be able to balance baseball and his schoolwork as best as he can.
He continues to improve himself everyday, and is embracing the next challenge as he enters the atmosphere of Pac-12 baseball. The future is very bright.
“The things he is going to have to endure is just sticking with the grind, the mental grind of it all,” Schilling said, “which I think he is equipped to do, which not a lot of guys are. Tanner is very mentally tough, which I think he just needs to continue to be mentally tough when he gets to the higher level. I think he will be a major leaguer in five years.”