The Reggie Smith Coaching Tree is Developing in the Los Angeles Dodgers System

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LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 1978: Reggie Smith #8 of the Los Angeles Dodgers winds up for a pitch against the New York Yankees during the World Series at Yankee Stadium in Bronx, NY in October of 1978. (Photo by Focus on Sports via Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Reggie Smith

The Reggie Smith coaching tree is beginning to flourish in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization. Reggie Smith, the hitting and life instructor for an entire generation of baseball players in the San Fernando Valley, has been changing swings and lives for the better now over twenty years.

Foundations

After retirement, Ted Williams was a regular visitor to Red Sox Spring Training camps (1961 to 1966), where he worked as a special batting instructor. Arguably the greatest hitter ever, teaching his knowledge of the craft to the next generation. The “Splendid Splinter” was a big influence on Smith as a young player in Boston. Guiding him with the cultivation of knowledge, in baseball and beyond. Reggie said of his mentor, “He (Williams) spent lots of time talking to me about hitting and life. That had a tremendous affect on me.” Smith went on to have a fantastic MLB career. Considered by many to be among the best switch hitters ever.

Reggie Smith in Dodger Blue

Reggie Smith a seven-time All-Star, played for the Boston Red Sox, St. Louis Cardinals, and San Francisco Giants, in addition to his years wearing Dodger blue. He also played in Japan along side the infamous Sadaharu Oh. Smith hit over 300 home runs (314), over 2,000 hits (2,020), over 1,000 RBI (1,092) and over 1,000 runs scored (1,123) in his MLB career.

The Dodgers utilized Smith in many roles, after his playing days. He was L.A.’s hitting instructor and first base coach. Smith also served in the Dodgers minor league system. Mike Piazza paid tribute to Smith in his HOF induction speech. Reggie was credited for bringing Piazza back from his home after he had quit the game.

Branches of the Tree

Perhaps now Smith is filling a more important role than ever for the Dodgers, even from outside the organization. He is helping to groom the coaching staff of the future. Smith has molded these young men in the old “Dodger Way.” A mindset of winning and building champions through strong character.

Smith’s coaching tree has sprouted and taken root in the organization. The quartet of Tarrick Brock, Fumi Ishibashi, Pedro Montero and Jeremy Rodriguez are the branches of this coaching connection. All heavily influenced by the wisdom of Smith and his years in the game. Each man, a shining example of fantastic character. Exactly the type of personalities to ensure a positive, productive and winning attitude be fostered with  players.

Manager at Great Lakes

The Great Lakes Loons of the Midwest League were led by Manager Jeremy Rodriguez in 2017. “J-Rod”, as he’s known by many of the players is also known as being a phenomenal player’s manager. That is certainly not by chance. The best perspective gained is from the players themselves. Dustin May, the Dodgers RHP #15 overall prospect said of J-Rod: ”he is all about the players, trying to help you improve, and get to the next level.” His communication skills and ability to make players feel relaxed and comfortable is crucial for these young players. Errol Robinson, the Dodgers #29 overall prospect added; ”You love fighting for a guy who has your back and the loves the game the way you do.”

 

When asked about his mentor, and what he learned, Jeremy Rodriguez said this about  Smith,“he not only prepared me for baseball, but he also prepared me for life.” The Dodgers are building men of strong character. A seamless parallel between a core organization belief and way of life. Recently, Rodriguez stated this about the former Dodger hitting instructor, “Reg doesn’t just teach baseball, he teaches you life lessons and how to be a better man.” Then he spoke about his first lesson with Reggie at 13 years old, “he definitely blows you away with his knowledge and his examples. He teaches you how to be your own hitting coach.”

Firefighter / Dodgers Coach

Pedro Montero is an instructor in the Dodgers organization who coached in the Dominican, as well as the Arizona Instructional Leagues. Infield positioning, hitting and coaching third base were among Montero’s duties in is his first season with the Dodgers. “Petie,” as he is also known, was working as a firefighter before this season. While in the midst of transferring between L.A. area fire departments, Montero received exciting news.  He learned that his friend, Jeremy Rodriguez, submitted his name as a possible coaching candidate. Petie signed his contract on February 14th, and started with the Dodgers officially, one week before spring training. Montero went from saving lives, to coaching baseball for his hometown team.

Montero, excited to join the Dodgers family, stated, “Reggie had been preparing us for working in baseball and being able to teach baseball at any level.” Growing up in the Los Angeles area, a Dodger fan, Montero is living a dream. He and Rodriguez had talked about the opportunity of both coaching with the Dodgers someday. That day is now. When asked about Reggie’s advice Montero stated, “get to the ballpark and when your there, go to work…keep your mind open and learn new things.”  An important reminder for Pedro, “we don’t teach players, they teach us how to teach them.” To take it a step further, “How can you learn something ten different ways, so that you can teach that player ten different ways.”

From Japan to Encino to the Dodgers

Imagine the love of baseball taking you away from your comfort zone, more than that, it takes you to another country. This is the story of Dodgers minor league coach, Fumi Ishibashi. His love and curiosity for baseball in America grew after attending a summer camp in Japan in 2001. Reggie Smith was the instructor. The young, high school catcher had the chance to meet and work with the sage hitting instructor. “I dreamt of playing baseball in the U.S.,” Fumi said in a phone interview last month. He set his sights on learning English and attending college to further his dream of playing baseball in the States.

Ishibashi’s dreams were fulfilled as he played college baseball at Los Angeles Pierce College. He then captured another aspiration by playing minor league baseball in the Padres organization. Smith played an integral role in that success, as Fumi’s hitting coach, mentor and so much more. “Reggie Smith was like my dad here in the United States, I was treated like family.” The humble instructor went on to add about Smith, “he showed me how to survive and live in the States.”

Everywhere, All the Time

Coach Tarrick Brock is an outfield and base running instructor in the Dodgers organization. “T-Brock” is seemingly everywhere, just as one would expect of an outfield and base running coordinator. The former second round draft pick of the Detroit Tigers in 1991, served in 2017 as a roving instructor for the Dodgers. Brock, who made his MLB debut in 2000, on his approach with players. “At this point in time, this should be the most fun of their lives’.” It certainly shows with comradery and positive interactions between he and his students. The Hawthorne High standout, coached for Reggie in many camps and academies through out the late 90’s and beyond. He had also coached Montero and Rodriguez when they were players for Smith. “I have known Jeremy since he was 14 years old,” Brock reminisced.

Smith has had a profound impact on not only these men, but also on the entire game of baseball. That can be further illustrated by Brock’s comment: “In ’96 or ’97, I remember hitting a ground ball in the cage, and Reggie said {“get the ball off the ground”}. Now you hear so much about the launch angle and Reggie was always big on that, way before his time.”

Final Thoughts

At 72 years young, Reggie Smith is still teaching hitting, and giving life lessons. When asked about his players, who are now coaching in the Dodgers organization, Reggie said “I told them if really interested in this teaching, you could teach at any level. Each one of them was dedicated in their approach. I had all of them from a young age.” The proud mentor continued, “They are all extremely prepared, it’s expected, not a surprise.”

The Dodgers do not currently retain Smith as a coach, however they have four coaches in the system, who emulate Reggie’s values; character, class, effective communication, and the understanding needed to succeed in the “Dodger Way.”

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