Pinch role sometimes way to go

SIDELIGHT

July 07, 1994|By Lori Van Lonkhuyzen | Lori Van Lonkhuyzen,Sun Staff Writer

Preparation that meets opportunity.

These are the words that dictate Dwight Smith's life.

As a constant reminder, Smith keeps this motto in his locker on a crinkled piece of folded Orioles stationery. It is his reminder that luck doesn't exist. Success is achieved only by hard work.

"In baseball, we play every day; there's no such thing as luck," Smith said. "You better have skill."

Smith's philosophies are from the dirt and sweat school of thought. He believes in reaping benefits from a job well done.

And although his limited role is not one that most baseball players would be happy with, Smith isn't complaining.

"I'm not playing like I want to," Smith said. "But instead of pouting or talking to the press, I convert that into extra batting practice. I think the manager, coaches and players all have respect for that."

.4l But he knew when he was obtained by the Orioles from the California Angels June 14, for an as-yet unnamed player, he would not start every day.

In fact, starring in a limited role has been Smith's strong point.

With the Chicago Cubs, Smith set a team-record of 50 career pinch-hits. Last year, with the Cubs, he batted .375 with five RBIs as a pinch hitter. And, in his last game as an Angel, he went 1-for-1 with a pinch-hit home run.

For the Orioles, he's played in just nine games. However, he started for the second night in a row last night, after a 2-for-3 performance Tuesday night that yielded an RBI. Through eight games with the Orioles, he had five hits and three RBIs.

And he took advantage of a man-on situation in the fourth inning last night, plowing an 0-1 pitch into deep left-center, driving in the run and legging out a triple.

It's things like that that assure Smith he hasn't gone unnoticed.

"It's natural for all of us to talk about the year [Cal Ripken] Jr. is having or Leo [Gomez] . . . or [Rafael] Palmeiro," Orioles manager Johnny Oates said. "But what those guys with limited playing time have done has contributed to a winning ballclub."

Besides a clutch bat, Smith provides the Orioles with another great talent -- his voice.

He's promised to do a rendition of the national anthem sometime after the All-Star break.

Said Smith, "I value just as much when people say, 'He's a good man. He treats people right. ' "

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