LAKE ELSINORE – The great Ty Cobb was known for, among other things, his ability to steal bases with ease. The hard-nosed Hall of Famer is fourth all-time in that category, swiping 897 bags in his 24 seasons. But despite his speed, Cobb knew that to be successful on the base paths, you needed to be more than fast.
“Speed is a great asset,” he said. “But it’s greater when it’s combined with quickness – and there’s a big difference.” It’s a difference that Storm centerfielder Mallex Smith knows all too well. The speedster runs like lightning, but it’s his understanding of the game that has led him to become professional baseball’s leading base stealer this season.
Mallex Lydell Smith was born on May 6, 1993 in Tallahassee, Florida. Much of his youth was spent outdoors, and it was early on that Mallex developed an interest in sports.
“I played football and baseball competitively,” he said. “Baseball was more for fun because I enjoyed playing and I knew how to play. Football was more like ‘Ok, I need to get my scholarship here, this is what [my future] is riding on.'”
Smith’s early dedication to the gridiron was in part influenced by his older brother Michael, who went on to play at the University of Arkansas. But despite his preference of football over baseball, Mallex’s parents, Michael Sr. and Loretta, always encouraged him to continue playing the latter.
It was partly due to his family’s influence that he continued to play both sports at Rickards High School. His focus, however, was still directed towards zone defenses and blitzing technique as opposed to laying down bunts and stealing bases.
“At that time I still thought football would be my long-term career,