NEW YORK — Kevan Smith looked up to the sky and said hello to an old friend.
The Chicago White Sox catcher and Seneca Valley graduate fought back tears as he touched home plate after hitting his first home run of the season August 25 in Detroit.
Smith has hit home runs in the majors before, but not like this one.
This one came with the name “Webby” on the back of his jersey for Players iel.
Wyatt was born in July.
“It was a no-brainer to honor him,” Smith said. “I can’t wait to tell my son about him, about what an awesome dude he was.”
Recently, another strange thing happened.
It was discovered that Wyatt has two webbed toes.
“You just can’t make this stuff up,” Smith said.
Smith is hoping to continue to honor his friend in the majors.
Smith began this season on the disabled list and joined the major league club on June 5 after starting catcher Welington Castillo was suspended for 80 games for using performance enhancing drugs.
Smith has been sharing time behind the plate with Omar Narvaez. He’s batting .282 with the one homer, 14 RBI in 124 at-bats.
He’s hoping the power starts to come around in the final month of the season.
“The power is there,” Smith said. “Honestly, it’s just about getting more efficient and comfortable in the box. That’s tough with guys throwing in the mid-90s and snapping off sliders and change-ups 20 mph slower.
“I’ve been up here over two years now,” Smith added. “That’s just part of the development, part of the process. The power numbers aren’t showing up yet, but I could show up next year and hit 30.”
Smith, now 30, doesn’t know where he’ll be next year.
His road to the majors was an unusual one. Smith was a standout quarterback on the Seneca Valley football team and decided to pursue that sport first out of high school.
Smith spent three years on the University of Pittsburgh roster and played six games before deciding to give baseball another whirl.
When he was finally called up by the White Sox in July of 2016, he suffered back spasms during pregame warmups and was placed on the disabled list.
He eventually returned to make his debut and hit .283 in 87 games last season.
Smith’s greatest strength, though, may be his ability to handle a pitching staff. He has developed a great rapport with young starter Lucas Giolito.
His future in Chicago, however, rests largely on what the club plans to do with Castillo.
Smith believes that there is a spot for him in the majors, if not with the White Sox, then with someone else.
He’s out of minor league options.
“That is sometimes a blessing and a curse,” Smith said. “It’s not like I’m 24 any more. It’s a situation for me now that it’s the big leagues or go home. That’s something I have to discuss with my wife.
“I just want to keep riding that wave.”