Jack Smith is running.
The MacArthur third baseman drills a ball to the outfield and sprints toward first, making it with plenty of time to spare. It happens so often that it’s easy to overlook, but background is important with Smith.
During his junior season in 2018, Smith wouldn’t have stayed on base. He’d jog back to the dugout as a courtesy runner took his place. Watching him now, it seems strange. He runs the 60-yard dash in 6.8 seconds and coach Rodney DeLong calls him one of the faster athletes the Highlanders have.
It’s a testament to how far he’s come.
In June of 2017, Smith was riding in a car to a summer league baseball tournament with a friend when the friend swerved to miss a deer, hitting a cement culvert. Smith broke his right femur, right wrist and jaw. He needed six surgeries and was in a wheelchair for about three months after the accident.
“The first day that I saw him he was in a wheelchair,” DeLong said. “He came out to the field when we were hitting that summer. His jaw is broken. His wrist is broken. He’s got a big ‘ole cast on his leg. Baseball was probably the furthest thing from my mind when I looked at him. How is this kid ever going to play baseball? He didn’t let that stop him.”
Smith was never going to give up baseball. The game, along with hunting and fishing (he helps run an outdoors Instagram account under the name @theduckboyz with a following of more than 30,000), takes up most of his free time. He doesn’t remember much from the hospital visits, but one moment does stick out. When his nurse found out that he was a Boston Red Sox fan, the two turned a game on and watched it together.
Smith started physical therapy soon after. Once he was out of the wheelchair, his parents tried their best to keep him from hunting right away. But he couldn’t be cooped up.
“He was walking around on crutches, duck hunting in September after the accident, against our better judgment,” Smith’s father, Dennis Smith said. “He was not gonna let the accident get in the way of him. His resilience was pretty impressive, just to get back out there, either hunting or on the field.”