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Smoral inks with Jays
Smoral inks with Jays
Solon pitcher signs MLB contract with Toronto
By TONY LANGE
Matt Smoral, a 2012 Solon High School graduate, signed a Major League Baseball contract with the Toronto Blue Jays Monday evening.
"It's just been an exciting time, and I'm just trying to have as much fun with it as I can with my friends and family," the 6-foot-8 lefthanded pitcher said the day before he signed. "We don't have anything signed yet, but tomorrow night I'll know."
That tomorrow night came June 18, and the 18-year-old became a millionaire with a stroke of a pen.
Smoral's decision came two weeks after the Jays selected him No. 50 overall in first round of the 2012 MLB draft on June 4.
As a University of North Carolina signee, Smoral opted out of playing college ball with the Tar Heels.
Either choice would have been a great one, he said.
"The month leading up to the draft, we thought about it so much, and we tried to look at every angle we could and just prepare for when we got to June 4 so that we knew exactly if this happened that I'm ready to play pro baseball," Smoral said of himself and his family members. "I think we did that, and, as the days got closer, I thought I just had a positive attitude about it either way. If I go to North Carolina or if I sign with a professional team, the decision is going to be a great sensation, and I'm going to have a ton of fun doing it."
UNC head baseball coach Mike Fox said the Tar Heels are very happy for Smoral.
"We knew from the beginning that there would be a chance that he would be a high draft pick," Fox said. "He ended up in a great situation, and I think it would have been great for him with whatever choice he would make, and we certainly support him in his decision and wish him the best.
"We've been down this road before with some of our other recruits that we've signed. We didn't really give him any advice," Fox said. "Matt is a great, talented student-athlete, and it would have been great to have him at the University of North Carolina, but, you know, you have limited opportunities to play professional baseball."
Some baseball enthusiasts had Smoral listed as high as the No. 10 pick in the MLB draft before he suffered a stress fracture in his foot on March 28 during the Comets' spring training trip to Myrtle Beach, S.C.
He just happened to be walking on the beach when it happened, Solon head coach Damien Kopkas said.
"He reached down to pick something up, and I don't know if his hand shifted a little bit, but he just felt a pop in his foot, and it turned out to be a stress fracture," Kopkas said. "It was kind of a freak injury, unexpected and sort of a shock to him, but he's very mature, and he's handled it very well.
"It was unfortunate that he had to end up missing his senior season, but I think it's something where he's got a brighter future beyond high school, and he's got that to think about," Kopkas said back in April.
During his junior season at Solon, Smoral pitched a 4-1 record, striking out 47 batters in 34 2/3 innings with a 1.82 ERA. Opposing hitters batted just .153 against him.
A low-90s mph fastball, with an occasional 95 mph heater, had pro scouts drooling all last summer, Kopkas said.
Sitting on the bench during his senior season was very disappointing, Smoral said.
"I definitely wish I could have been out there with my team. I just had the best attitude that I could with it and knew that I would be healthy for the really important part of my career," he said. "Once we got to the playoffs and made it through some games, it hit me kind of hard, because I knew I wanted to be out there with my buddies and play for my town."
Those buddies of his joined him on the MLB draft opening day, Smoral said.
When Smoral's friends and family saw his name on the TV, feelings of excitement and ecstasy filled the room, he said.
"The craziest part of it was that we didn't get a call before the pick happened, so, when it happened on TV, that was the first time we heard of it," Smoral said. "So I had a couple buddies over, and it was like I saw a ghost. It was just a fun time, and I just tried to have as much fun with it as I could and enjoy the moment."
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