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Trojans' Smith to become an Eagle

It wasn't hard for Northwestern Trojans slugger Chad Smith to decide which college he would attend.

There were numerous offers and he was in talks with several schools. But he canceled visits to Coastal Carolina and USC-Sumter last spring because he'd already told Winthrop baseball coach Joe Hudack that he wanted to become an Eagle.

Monday morning Smith made it official by signing his letter of intent in Northwestern's athletic office. He was surrounded by his parents, Michael and Susan Smith, Mitch Walters, Northwestern's coach, a pair of his best friends, Josh Yannotti and Tim Stone, and his travel ball coach Matt Oates.

"I look forward to next year," Smith said. "I've always said I wanted to play my college ball at Winthrop's stadium, and I'm getting to do it. I've been to several baseball camps there, and Winthrop was always my choice.

"I'll play third and first, maybe be a designated hitter at first. I want to play next year, but my goal is to win a starting position by my sophomore season. I don't think coach Hudack is considering redshirting me next year. He hasn't mentioned it."

Another plus is that his best friend, Rock Hill High's Josh Bowers, an outfielder, also signed with Winthrop. They grew up playing travel ball together and are high school rivals. They will be reunited, which Smith said is exciting. They have already signed up to be roommates.

Smith also is excited about playing for the school where Walters went and pitched. Walters' son, Cam, is out this season with an injury but is expected back on the Eagles' diamond next season.

"This is good because I can go right across town and watch Chad play," coach Walters said. "I'll get to watch Chad further his career. Chad talked to me and Cam about Winthrop, and we told him he's going to a good program."

Smith is a big hitter for average and power. He's batting .402, with eight doubles, three triples and four home runs. He knocked in 25 runs and helped the Trojans win the Region 3-AAAA title this season. They host Ridge View on Thursday in the opening round of the Class AAAA Upper State playoffs.

He chose Winthrop on his own, with no pressure from his parents or coach. They were there when he wanted to talk, but did not try to influence his decision. And he said playing in his hometown is good because his family, friends and teammates can come to games.

But, in the end, Michael Smith said all along he wanted his son to chose Winthrop. After all, the elder Smith said, the stadium is 10 minutes from his work and 15 from his home.

"The Saturday morning when Chad committed to coach Hudack, it was 8:30," his dad said. "We walked out onto the field and he was so excited. He said he couldn't wait to play there.

"I told him he might not play much next year, but he'll for sure have a better seat. We are very proud of him and this is a big day for all of us."