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Wednesday, Nov 29, 2023

Baseball Center is Team Effort for Famous Father, Son

Most children don’t have fathers who are selected six times to play in the major league baseball all-star game. Even fewer can claim to have watched their dad hit three home runs in a world series. Reggie Smith Jr. had a childhood that most can only dream about, getting to mingle in major league clubhouses with Hall of Famers and serve as a batboy on his father Reggie Smith Sr.’s teams. Having learned from Ted Williams, considered the greatest hitter to ever play the game, Reggie Smith Sr. swatted over 300 homeruns and over 2,000 hits. Now the two Smiths dispense their accumulated wisdom at the Reggie Smith Baseball Center in Encino, catering to aspiring sluggers aged seven to 18. “We realize that each child is an individual and he is taught both in the mechanical side and in the mental side of the game. We adapt our style to the student,” the elder Smith said. “There are different ways to approach hitting and you find that what works best for one individual needs might not work well for another.” Reggie Smith Jr. asserted that by virtue of growing up around his father and his teammates, teaching was a natural route for him having learned the game from the best. “I’ve been working with my father for my entire life, so running the center is very natural. It’s not work. It’s something I’d been born into,” Smith Jr. said. “We don’t really disagree because the information is the same. He sees things his way and I see it mine. We get different perspectives of the same thing. We’re constantly learning.” Famous fathers Speaker/Author/Consultant/Sports Performance expert Ray Pelletier stressed the difficulty of maintaining a solid father/son relationship when the father is famous. “Having a famous father normally produces a negative effect on the child, but it’s dependent on the relationship the father has with his son. There needs to be a clear understanding and respect, particularly if they are in a business environment,” the Miami-based Pelletier said. “There are huge generational differences between young people and older people today. Fathers and sons think differently. Young people embrace change, older people reject it.” Yet the Smiths have been unfazed by any generational gap, embracing their common interests to spur on the center’s success. “We don’t have a generational gap. I’m 36 so I’m the last of the old school,” Smith Jr. said. “We’re in the same place mentally. Disagreement’s not even an issue. He’s father, I’m son, it has got its own natural chemistry. We’re not like most people. There’s an understanding and a respect. It’s about the students and the teaching. It’s easy to communicate between the two of us. But when you’re dealing with a master, you better know what you’re talking about.” Proud father The elder Smith takes great pride in his son’s accumulation of knowledge and teaching ability. “It’s great for any father to think that your son learned some of the lessons that he learned in my house and in the clubhouse. He was a batboy for the times I played on and grew up around major league baseball,” Reggie Smith Sr. said. “But having knowledge is not everything. He has learned how to teach. There are a lot of coaches but few teachers. Coaches repeat what they have learned and what they know, they only can produce clones. Teachers produce great ballplayers.” Yet the instruction at the Center doesn’t stop with the Smiths. Baseball luminaries such as Maury Wills, Tommy Davis, Dave Wallace, Tony Gwynn, Ken Caminiti and Manny Mota have all stopped by to conduct guest clinics. The Center also offers facilities unlike most baseball facilities. While most batting cages are located indoors, the cages at the Reggie Smith Baseball Centers are outside, next to a spacious complex of fields, just south of the 101 freeway. Lessons cost $65 per half-hour with the Smiths, $30 per session with other instructors.

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