Mallex Smith described it as a quick conversation. But it’s exactly what he wanted to hear.
The former Rickards High two-sport star was a fifth-round selection by the San Diego Padres in the second day of Major League Baseball’s First-Year Player Draft on Tuesday.
Smith, a speedy outfielder, hit .380 in his first season at Santa Fe Community College in Gainesville this past year. He played both football and baseball at Rickards and was a 13th-round selection by the Milwaukee Brewers following his senior season last year.
Smith, 19, said the Padres telephoned him early in the fourth round of Tuesday’s draft. They came to an agreement and selected Smith with the 165th overall pick a round later.
According to the maximum bonus pool put in place for the first 10 rounds, the Padres’ budget for Smith’s slot is $254,500. However, teams can spread extra money over those picks as long as they don’t exceed their total draft budget.
“It was a crazy little cycle,” Smith said.
“It happened so fast, extremely fast. The round really wasn’t an issue, it was a matter of getting a certain deal done. I am extremely excited. This is actually the first step to a dream come true. I have a lot more work to do to keep the dream coming.”
Smith, a 5-foot-9, 175-pounder, says attending junior college for one season helped accelerate his development. He had 17 extra base hits and 31 stolen bases.
“It really helped me a lot,” Smith said.
“In high school, I just tried to hit every pitch thrown to me. At the college level, that won’t work. I started to develop an approach to hitting, and that escalated my game. I believe that helped separate me as a player.”
Rickards coach Brian Kelley credited Smith’s work ethic for his success.
“He’s so self-driven, I’ve never seen anybody like him,” said Kelley, who was following the draft on his computer with his two young boys when the Padres announced Smith’s selection.
“With his speed, I think he has all the tools to go with it. I would be more surprised if he didn’t make it to the majors than if he did. I think he works that hard.”
Smith’s older brother Michael played football at Rickards and at the University of Arkansas.