Albany's Joey Smith signs with Nunez Community College

Albany's Joey Smith, seated center, signed to play baseball at Nunez Community College during a ceremony Friday in the AHS cafeteria. Seated with the signee are his mother, Gloria Smith and his father, Paul Smith. Standing are Albany coaches David Pittman and Gabe Woods.

ALBANY – If there’s a moral to Joey Smith’s story, it’s that hard work and determination will pay off in the end.

Smith, who played primarily catcher for the Hornets during his career, signed to play at Nunez Community College during a ceremony Friday in the Albany High cafeteria.

“It’s a great feeling,” Smith said. “It’s an honor to be able to continue my baseball career at Nunez Community College. They gave me a chance, honestly. I went and toured the school. It’s a nice school. I like it. It’s got what I want.”

Albany coach Gabe Woods said Smith’s signing is well-deserved.

“Smitty’s worked his tail off,” Woods said. “He’s a firecracker. He’s a hard-nosed kid. I’ve talked to him recently. He’s got to keep his emotions in check … but that’s played to his strength as far as getting to where he’s at today. If he didn’t have the competitive edge, and he didn’t have that fire, then he probably doesn’t sign. That’s just a testament to his hard work.

“He’s got athletic ability, he can hit the baseball," Woods said. "He can hit with the best of them. I think he’s in the top five in the state in home runs this year. He can really hit, but to improve on every part of his game like he did this season was awesome, and that’s fun to watch.”

One of the plusses for Smith is Nunez, located in Chalmette, is it’s a third-year program trying establish itself.

“They’re just trying to rebuild and start something big,” Smith said. “I think it’s going to turn into a huge program. I really do. I want to be part of something big.”

Smith has admittedly battled issues with his weight during his career, but went on a low-carb diet during the season after college coaches said shedding some pounds would help him at the next level. He dropped weight during that time, which he said helped him as the Hornets went deeper into the season.

“It’s like a weight lifted off of my shoulder,” Smith said of signing. “I’ve been told ‘lose this, gotta do this.’ I did it. Now I’m getting rewarded for it. It just feels amazing.”

Iowa at Albany baseball Joey Smith

Albany's catcher Joey Smith (20) tags out an Iowa runner at the plate to end the inning Saturday.

Smith said the Nunez coaching staff didn’t give him a set role on the team, but is hopeful his ability to hit will be beneficial. He finished his senior season batting .337 with 22 singles, eight doubles, five home runs, 30 RBIs, 24 runs and 11 walks.

“Honestly, they told me if you can hit the ball, you’ll be on the field – you’ll be in the lineup somehow,” said Smith, who struck out only 18 times and was hit six times.

He said it doesn’t matter the position or role he plays.

“If they want to put me in center field, hey, I’ll do it," he said. "Wherever they want me to play. Whatever it takes.”

Woods said Smith shouldn’t have a problem adjusting to the junior college game.

“I think his work ethic that he’s developed is going to be a big positive for him," Woods said. "I also think his determination to want to be on the field every single play and wanting to be on the field as badly as he wants to – that’s going to make him the best player that he can be.

“He has that want to do it," he said. "We had good catchers come in. We had DJ Brumfield this year. We had Brock Bankston transfer in, and every year, I challenged him – ‘Smitty, if you don’t work hard, these guys are going to take your spot’ – and he has risen to the challenge every time. I think that’s going to correlate to the college ranks for him.”

Smith won’t be alone at Nunez as Albany teammate Acey Martin and Springfield’s Zac Wild also signed with the school.

“It’s always good to know somebody when go off kind of away from home,” Smith said. “It’s always good to have friends that you know locally.”

Woods said he’s hopeful that the signings of Martin and Smith will be the start of the trend for the Hornets’ program.

“They’re both going to Nunez, and Nunez is picking up two great ball players,” Woods said. “I’m pretty confident that it’s the tip of the iceberg, and it’s a testament to those two guys proving to not only these players, but this community that good baseball players come out of this area and out of this town. Albany produces great athletes. They produce good baseball players, and now it’s starting to show.”

After signing, Smith offered some advice for players who might be following a similar path as his high school career.

“Stay humble, honestly,” Smith said. “Stay humble and work in silence, and the game will reward you.”

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