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Pitt's Smith makes move to diamond work

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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Kevan Smith was facing a big decision.

Should he remain with the Pitt football team or try his hand at baseball?

He felt he was capable of performing at a high level in both sports. But after some intense soul-searching and a nudge from Pitt football coach Dave Wannstedt, Smith opted to move on and try his luck with the Panthers' baseball team.

So far, it's worked out well for the former Seneca Valley multi-sport star, who came to the Big East school on a football scholarship and played quarterback mainly in a backup role during his first two seasons.

"I wanted to play both, and I told coach Wannstedt I'd do anything to remain on my football scholarship," Smith said. "I said I'd play special teams and long-snapper, anything he wanted. I was hoping he'd go along with it, but he told me I had to make a decision."

It might turn out to be a no-brainer that Smith made the switch in sports.

As a platoon catcher/DH for the Pitt baseball team (26-10), ranked No. 24 in the Collegiate Baseball Newspaper weekly poll, Smith is enjoying his redshirt junior season.

"He's doing great," Pitt coach Joe Jordano said. "He'll benefit from getting another year under his belt. He has to continue to improve his defensive skills. He's got the arm strength, obviously. As he continues to develop as a baseball player, he's got a chance to play at the next level."

Though he was 0 for 4 in a 16-3 loss at Kent State on Tuesday, ending Pitt's four-game winning streak, Smith is batting .322 (47 for 146) with three home runs and 31 RBI in 35 games. He also has 12 doubles and has struck out just nine times. And he has yet to commit an error.

"I've felt more confident in baseball, but I also knew I had the tools to play football at this level, too," said the 6-foot-3, 225-pound Smith.

He started several football games in his first season, recalling a comparison between the huge crowds on Saturday afternoons and the sparse crowds on Friday nights.

"It seemed like it was slowly working out for me," Smith said. "I thought I did OK. But the next season wasn't as promising. I wasn't getting what I felt was the shot I needed. I was beginning to wonder if it was worth it."

He hadn't forgotten the visits Jordano made to watch him play baseball in high school. He knew the coach was recruiting him, but he also knew that a baseball scholarship didn't add up to the value of a football scholarship.

Yet, here he is, playing baseball after all.

"I took a little sacrifice on my scholarship," Smith said, "but looking at it now, I think the draft is a possibility."

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