By Jeffrey Swindoll
It has all been about the wins for head coach Steve Smith. He helped make Baylor baseball into a Big 12 powerhouse. Smith is in the middle of his 20th season with the Bears, but this season marks a special new experience for him— coaching his two sons at Baylor.
Junior right-handed pitcher Ryan Smith and freshman first baseman Case Smith are both members of Baylor’s baseball team and are coached by their father at the collegiate level.
While this is Smith’s 20th year as Baylor head coach, it is not his 20th year of being a Bear. Smith graduated from Baylor in 1986 was inducted into the Baylor Athletics Hall of Fame in 2006.
Baylor is not just a part of Smith’s chosen profession, it is part of his life and family.
Growing up as the coach’s son and attending Baylor games as a child, Case, now 19 years old, said playing with Ryan and for his dad has been something he has dreamed of for many years now and is thrilled that his dream is now a reality.
“It’s been a goal of mine since I was a little kid to play with my brother and with my dad,” Case said. “It’s always been an expectation of mine. Just being here, to finally be on the field, it’s just a dream.”
Ryan, at 21 years old, is in his third season playing for his dad. Ryan got a taste of what it was like to have family on the team, but now with his only brother practicing and playing alongside him, he said it is better than ever.
“It’s been pretty surreal for me the past two years, and now with Case joining the team, it’s even gone to a whole new level,” Ryan said. “This year’s really going to be exciting and we’re both looking forward to it.”
Even with family on the roster, Coach Smith still has a team to manage, and winning is always the expectation. Coaches have had their sons be a part of the team several times in the past, but having two sons on the same team at the same time is a rare occurrence.
“I don’t think we’ve ever [played another team with two coach’s sons] before,” Ryan said. “For both of us, it’ll be pretty cool.”
From the outside, thinking the coach is giving preference to his sons is an easy speculation to make.
With that said, it may be tricky for Coach Smith approaching his job with objective evaluation when his two sons are in that mix. Ryan and Case feel they are treated the same way as others on the team from Coach Smith.
“[Coach Smith] treats us with respect and treats everybody else with respect,” Ryan said. “He doesn’t really play favorites. He’s really just trying to put the best nine players on the field and win some ball games.”
Being the coach’s son comes with a challenge to be fair to others, but Ryan said being the coach’s son also comes with an expectation of greatness from the head coach that no other players may have.
At the end of the day, Ryan and Case are Smith’s two sons, and he wants them to be the very best they can be.
“He does expect more of us off the field obviously,” Ryan said. “From a dad’s perspective, yes he does expect a lot from us on the field as well.”
Smith specializes in coaching pitchers. Naturally, both his sons became pitchers and pitch for Baylor now under him.
In the season opening series at Arizona State and in the home opener against UT-Arlington, Smith utilized four to six pitchers each game.
Ryan and Case are part of a pitching lineup that Smith has confidence will settle into a rotation in their upcoming weekend series against Austin Peay.
Case has not been on the mound yet for the Bears at home, but Smith said it is the coaching staff’s intention to have starting pitchers go deeper into the next couple of games home and away.
“We’ll still use common sense with all of them,” Smith said. “About the next 10 days or so are going to be really interesting challenges with the staff. It will become a real test to the staff.”
Smith has been coaching for years before his sons were on the team, and he has already won a Big 12 championship with Ryan on the team. Smith has proven that he knows how to manage the responsibility of being a father and a coach, and he has exemplified that he is successful at doing both.
Women’s basketball head coach Kim Mulkey and her daughter, senior guard Makenzie Robertson, have been on the same team for four years now.
This season, they’re looking for another Big 12 title. Mulkey has made it work with Robertson over the years.
Smith, with his two sons on the team now, is also looking to win another Big 12 title this season.
Smith is only three wins shy of achieving his 700th career victory at Baylor. After three more wins, it will be a moment the entire Smith family can celebrate together.