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Smith steps down as Rocky Mount High baseball coach

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Rocky Mount High baseball coach Pat Smith chats with an umpire Thursday, March 30, 2017 during the game against Southern Nash at Rocky Mount High School.

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BY JESSIE H. NUNERY
Sports Editor

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Pat Smith has always been a coach that could not only tell a player what he was doing right or wrong, but also one that could show them the proper way.

So this season, as he threw fewer batting practices than he wanted or didn’t have the energy to grab a glove and display the right way to turn a double play, Smith knew it was time to do something else.

The Rocky Mount High coach resigned from his post and plans to retire at the age of 68.

“It’s nothing anyone has done, and it’s still fun coaching, but at my age, you can’t do things like you used to do,” Smith said.

Smith coached the Gryphons for the past two seasons after an initial seven-year stint with the school that was highlighted by a 2008 NCHSAA 3-A state championship. His career began in 1973 as an assistant coach at his alma mater, Robersonville High. Smith’s baseball resume includes five state championships — one as a player in 1967, back-to-back titles in 1973-74, 1990 at South Johnston as a head coach and finally one with the Gryphons in 2008.

Smith was able to remain in the game longer than he expected. He had a dream of playing professional baseball when he was 10 years old, and he spent five years in Minnesota Twins farm system. 

For all the winning Smith has done at various stops during his coaching career, he said he remembers the title-contending teams that fell just short.

Rocky Mount won the Big East Conference regular-season and tournament titles this year before losing to Pittsboro Northwood in the second round of the 3-A state playoffs.

The team will lose eight seniors from the program, and Smith said he thought the Gryphons would benefit from someone new taking on the next corps of players.

When he returned to the Gryphons after four years with Rocky Mount Academy that also included a trip to the 2013 2-A state championship series, Smith told Rocky Mount High principal Leondus Farrow that he would evaluate his will to come back after every season.

“Mr. Farrow said, ‘When you are done, tell me, and I’ll understand,’” Smith said. “He and coach (Mike) Gainey have been fantastic to work for.”

Smith also said that he understands that being a coach in 2017 is different than in past decades. Being ready and willing to give his all to offseason workouts isn’t something Smith said he thought he could do any longer.

There are rounds of golf to play, and maybe a farm in the future to grab his attention.

“It’s time to move on,” Smith said.

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