Before Chase Smartt first crouched behind the Paterson Field plate, he pictured his dad playing on the same field.
Mark Smartt was in the stands, beaming with pride over his son and thinking the same thing.
Paterson Field is a special place for the Smartt family — and it became more special Wednesday with Charles Henderson’s 7-4 win over Brooks in the opening game of the Class 4A championship series.
“Our family has a lot of memories on this field,” Chase said. “Every time I play here, I remember that my dad played here, too, and won two national championships. I’m always happy to play on this field.”
Mark was part of Troy State teams that won NCAA Division II national championships in 1986 and ’87 at Paterson.
With Wednesday’s win, the Trojans (39-3) moved within one victory of winning a state championship. Charles Henderson and Brooks (45-10) play Game 2 of the series at 4 p.m. today at Riverwalk Stadium. Game 3, if necessary, follows.
“You want to win Game 1, but we have more work to do,” Charles Henderson coach Derek Irons said. “We still have to win one more game.”
Chase Smartt, a 17-year-old sophomore and Charles Henderson’s No. 3 hitter, and senior Joey Denison had two RBIs each Wednesday. Junior leadoff hitter Hunter Baggett scored three times, including a straight steal of home in the first inning, while senior Houston Mabray (11-1) threw a nine-hitter.
“I had an old teammate text me tonight, ‘There’s a lot of history there,'” Mark said. “He’s right. This is a great place for me personally and I’m so proud of my son and his team.”
Mark, now an assistant coach at Troy University, was on the Division II World Series all-tournament team in 1987 and was a two-time all-conference player for the Trojans.
“He barely talks about what he did when we’re at home, but I’ve heard about it from a lot from people around Troy,” Chase said. “There are so many people in Troy who know my dad. Every day, he talks to me about baseball, and he always makes me smile about baseball.
“I’m very blessed that he’s my father.”
Unfortunately, Mark won’t see the rest of the series.
The Trojans leave for Mobile today and start a three-game series tonight at South Alabama. The series ends their regular season.
“I have to go watch our team play, and we have a very meaningful series at South,” Mark Smartt said. “Otherwise, I’d be here. I’m so proud of Coach Irons and this team.
“They’ve played spectacular baseball from start to finish.”