Tim and Christina Smelzer were looking at a picture of their ten year old son, Devin, with Cole Hamels. But this was not an ordinary picture. This was a picture of a young boy with no hair due to chemotherapy and radiation therapy treatments treating his cancer. After taking too many trips to the bathroom to urinate, Devin was diagnosed on multiple occasions with a urinary tract infection. However a father of one of Devin’s teammates, and a friend of the family, was a pediatric urologist and recommended a specialist. It was in this meeting that Devin was finally properly diagnosed with a grapefruit sized tumor pressing against his bladder, that a biopsy later proved to be cancerous. The aggressive approach to treating his cancer killed his appetite and Devin dropped to 50 pounds.
After some understandable self-pity, Devin grew wise beyond his 9 years, looked around the hospital and realized that he was going to be okay and was better off than many of the other children surrounding him. But in order for him to continue to play baseball his absolute passion, Devin had to begin eating. Even with his frail body, Devin did not miss a season of youth baseball during his year-long treatment sessions.
Devin’s cancer went into remission as it remains today. The Padres drafted Smeltzer in the 33rd round after high school. Devin chose instead to attend Florida Gulf Coast University his freshman season. But Devin never forgot the friends he made at hospital who were not as fortunate as he was and never made it out. Devin wrote their names on the bill of his cap all through high-school and his freshman season. Devin decided to attend San Jacinto College for his sophomore year. When sweat blurred the ink on his cap, Devin memorized their names. Devin later said that he would scribe their names on the bill of his first Dodger hat.
Matt Hyde was the Northeast Region scout for the NY Yankees and shared a comment that Devin supplied to the question, “what are your goals outside of baseball.” Devin’s response was “he wanted to give back to the people who helped him through battling cancer.” That gave Hyde the idea to do a winter fundraiser called “Swing For The Cure.” Devin and Hyde produce the annual youth baseball event in Syracuse, NY. Going into the third year, the fundraiser has raised over $80K for multiple non-profit institutions including St Christopher’s, the hospital where Devin was treated.
In June, 2016, 20 year old Devin Smeltzer, a 6’ 3” 195 pound LHP, was the 5th round draft choice of the Dodgers. His signing was announced June 25, 2016 for an above slot contract of $500K. He was assigned to the AZL Dodgers. In 10 games, all in relief, Smeltzer compiled a record of 0-2 and a 7.59 ERA with 6 BB and 12 K in 10.2 IP.
For 2017, Devin was assigned to Great Lakes, full season A Ball in the Midwest League. For the year, Devin has started 9 games and compiled 44.1 IP. He is 2-2 allowing 35 hits, 12 walks, 51 strikeouts, A WHIP of 1.06, and a 4.06 ERA. His biggest obstacle right now is the long ball. He has allowed 6 HR in those 44.1 innings. I was following his last start on May 26 and was really hoping for a good game to finish this post with. In 5 innings, Smeltzer was pitching well allowing three hits, three walks, three strikeouts, and one unearned run. But in the 6th inning, Devin obviously tired and gave up 2 walks, 1 single, a 2 run HR, and a 3 run HR before recording an out. So it was not the happy ending to his May 26 start that I was hoping for.
Making it to the Show is not an easy journey for anyone, but with what Devin has overcome and achieved in his life, I would not bet against him.
Minor League Report:
OKC lost 11-3 to New Orleans (Marlins) – Justin Masterson did not have one of his better outings this afternoon. He went 3.2 innings, allowing 3 hits, 5 runs (3 earned), 3 walks, and 3 strikeouts. The one big hit was a three-run HR by lite hitting David Vidal. Masterson was followed by two uninspired relief appearances by Justin Marks and Layne Somsen. Joe Broussard finished with two 3 up and 3 down innings. Offensively Max Muncy (2) and Willie Calhoun (1) provided the Dodgers three hits. Muncy had his 5th double and Calhoun had his 9th.
Tulsa broke a 6 game losing streak with a 3-1 victory over Corpus Christi (Astros) – In his longest outing of the year, Walker Buehler pitched 5 innings allowing 2 hits, 1 run, 1 walk, and 6 strikeouts. The lone Corpus Christi run was Jack Mayfield’s 3rd HR. Buehler got his first AA win, and was followed with some outstanding relief from Colt Hynes, Ralston Cash, Edward Paredes, with Shea Spitzbarth closing and for his 1st AA save. Offensively, the Drillers were led by Edwin Rios’ three hits including his 13th and 14th double, and Kyle Garlick with his league lead tying 11th HR.
RC Quakes suffered a 7-4 loss to the Stockton Ports (A’s) – Yadier Alveraz was roughed up for 6 runs, 9 hits, 2 walks, and 5 strikeouts in 4 innings (including 3 batters in the 5th who all scored). Andrew Istler did pitch a 3 up and 3 down 9th inning. Offensively, the Quakes were led by Luke Raley (4th triple and 4th HR), and Darrien Tubbs with 2 hits each. DJ Peters did get his 9th double.
Great Lakes Loons lost a 12 inning 1-0 game to Lansing (Toronto) – Chris Matthewson (3.2 innings), Vinny Santarsiero (2.1 innings), Angel German (3.0 hits), and Sven Schuller 2.2 innings before giving up the walk off single by Bo Bichette. Oneil Cruz led the Loons with 2 hits including his 2nd double. Gavin Lux did get his 3rd double.
I was a fan of Bo Bichette before the draft, and was hoping the Dodgers could draft him. Bichette, a HS SS, was the 2016 2nd round choice of the Blue Jays. It will be interesting watching the climb of both Lux and Bichette. Right now, Bichette in his 39 games for Lansing has 156 AB, 58 hits, 18 doubles, 2 triples, 4 HR, 28 RBI, 18 walks, 32 strikeouts, while his batting line is .372/.449/.590/1.039. I will be watching Bo all the way to the Toronto lineup.