Joe Smith, one of the most common of male names for English-speaking people, but a very uncommon athletic talent.
The 2002 Amelia High School graduate made his first appearance at Cincinnati’s Great American Ball Park during a four-game series, July 17-20, when Smith’s team, the New York Mets, squared off against the Redlegs.
“I was fun being back home, but it was really weird playing a a ball park where I had watched a lot of games when I was in college at Wright State,” said Smith.
During his standout athletic career at Amelia, Smith, 6-feet, 2-inches, 210-pounds, was a Fort Ancient Valley Conference all-star in baseball and basketball. He was one of the best cagers in Greater Cincinnati when he scored 20.3 points per game and hauled down 6.7 rebounds per contest.
He went on to play his last three years of college for the Wright State Raiders where he earned the Horizon League's Pitcher of the Year and NCAA All-Mideast Regional second team honors.
The Mets obtained Smith's services when he was selected in the third round of the 2006 First Year Player Draft.
Before being brought up to the major league squad, the former Amelia Baron pitched for the Mets' minor league clubs at Brooklyn (Class A) of the New York-Penn League and Binghamton (Class AA) of the Eastern League.
Upon coming to Cincinnati this month, Smith had compiled some very respectable statistics.
His win-loss record was 1-1 with a 2.97 earned run average. He had pitched in 44 games and threw in 39.1 innings. He had allowed 14 runs, 13 earned, and 29 hits. He had given up three home runs and hit four opposing batters. He had struck out 30 and walked 13 and had no wild pitches or balks. The opposition had a batting average of .207 and an on base percentage of .293.
Left hand hitters have a .257 hitting average against Smith and he has struck out six and walked seven.
Versus right hand hitters he has limited his adversaries to a .190 average at the plate, surrendering three home runs, striking out 24, and walking six.
In New York's Shea Stadium he has a 2.21 earned run average and a 0-1 record. He has thrown 20.1 innings giving up six runs, five earned, 13 hits, whiffing 17 and walking six with a .178 opponents' batting average.
Away from Shea Stadium he has a 3.79 earned run average and a 1-0 record. He has tossed 19 innings, allowing eight runs, all earned, 16 hits, and has fanned 13 foes and walked seven. The opposition has a .239 batting average.
Notes from the Mets organization noted that Smith had permitted just one run in his last 10.2 innings for a 0.84 earned run average and had not allowed an earned run in 23 of the last 30 games in which he has appeared. He has allowed only six of his 34 inherited runners to score which is the ninth-best percentage in the National League.
During the Mets' weekend in the Queen City, Smith was able to see family and friends.
"It was nice to see friends I hadn't seen in a long time and to spend time with them and my family."
Smith's mom, Lee, was thrilled and excited to see her 24 year old son back home.
"I was thrilled to have him here and to see how overwhelmed he was with the tremendous support and number of people from Amelia and Wright State who came to watch him play. That was the highlight of the weekend for me."
A proud father, Mike Smith said, "It is kind of unbelievable; never thinking this would happen. It was a tremendous weekend. Some of Joe's friends and relatives got to see him throw for the first time. Overall, it was fantastic."
His family and friends got to see him make an appearance in relief on Friday July 18.
In his one inning against the Reds, Smith gave up no runs and just one hit. Cincinnati and pitcher Bronson Arroyo defeated New York 5-2 to end the New Yorker's 11-game winning streak.
The highlight of the season thus far for the Clermont countian was in Philadelphia, July 6.
"We were tied with them in the series one-to-one there and in the game I came in they were up. I was the only one left in the bullpen. I pitched longer than I had all season. The game went 12 innings, but we won 4-2.
"We were in third place about three games out then. We are in first place right now (July 22)."
This victory over the Phillies marked his first triumph on the mound of the 2008 season.
Having grown up in Clermont County and Pierce Township and now living in New York City, Smith has had to make adjustments.
"Everything is so big and so crazy in New York. It took a while, but I'm okay with it now. I've gotten used to most things."
Making friends has never been a problem for Smith.
"This is a great group of guys. They're a nice group of people," he said of his teammates. "Most of the guys are married, but (6-foot, 4-inch, 200-pound right hand pitcher John) Maine, (6-foot, 7-inch, 230-pound right hand pitcher Mike) Pelfrey and me hang out together. They had heard I was supposed to be good in basketball and I had to prove it to them in spring training and ever since then."
As of this point in his career, Smith has no personal goals, but he does have one team goal - "I want to get to the playoffs."