By Ben Strober
Smith Pinson fondly remembers leaving his Georgia home during the summer when he was 11 and 12 years old.
Those summers Pinson, his brother and a close family friend, flew over 2000 miles to attend the legendary Tom House’s pitching clinic in California.
Pinson would spend multiple weeks out west learning valuable teachings about pitching from House, whose widely considered the “father of modern pitching mechanics.”
Accompanying Pinson on those trips was his late mother, Nancy, who treasured an undeniable love for baseball.
“She was a nerd for it,” Pinson said. “She wanted any kind of information. Whether it was tips or tricks, whenever we had a baseball conversation.”
On the road to becoming a division one pitcher at Kennesaw State, Pinson’s mother’s love for the game and support helped him reach his dream.
Years later, in his sophomore season, Pinson’s young life took a turn. On the morning of March 14th, Pinson’s mother passed away.
That very day, Pinson did what most people couldn’t.
Hours later, Pinson drove his car over 170 miles north to be with his team at Georgia Southern.
He told us his mom would have wanted him with us that day,” Kennesaw State head coach Ryan Coe said. “He wanted to be treated like it was any other game.”
Ahead by a run needing four outs to seal the win, Pinson’s head coach handed him the ball.
Through all the emotions and challenges Pinson faced that Tuesday, he got the job done on the mound, earning his second save of the season.
“It was really an incredible thing he did that day,” Coe said. “It was a tough decision for me and the pitching coach, but the situation kind of just called for him to get the ball, and he helped us win.”
Pinson’s save came as part of a 17-straight scoreless inning for him to start the spring.
“Mom would have wanted me to play,” Pinson said.
Through the memory of his mother, Pinson lives out another dream this summer, pitching in the Cape Cod Baseball League.
“This is the top summer league to be in, so being here and competing is a really special experience,” Pinson said.
Coe said he and his staff sent him to The Cape because they believe he’ll pitch in the Major Leagues.
“He’s not your average pitcher,” Coe said. “When some guys get into trouble, they throw harder. When Smith gets in trouble, he throws softer with more movement.”
Pinson’s family baseball tradition runs deep. Pinson’s father, Tom Pinson, pitched collegiately at Valdosta State.
“My dad helped me learn how to manipulate the ball when I was around 11, which really helped me start to understand how the ball moves and in the air and how I can affect the ball,” Pinson said.
Pinson said his father built the baseball fields in his town so that he and his brother could start playing when they were around five.
Additionally, Tom Pinson made his way to the pros, being selected in the 42nd round of the 1992 MLB draft by the New York Mets.
Pinson’s blossom into the hard-throwing versatile pitcher derived from the process his dad helped him fall in love with.
“He always helped me go about my business,” Pinson said. “Whether it was eating right, working out, or recovering the right way, he made sure I did it the right way.”
Pinson said he had many different coaches that shaped him into a better pitcher, including House.
House is famously known for his work with Nolan Ryan, as his methods of recovery and pitching science helped Ryan into a second prime.
“I’m a big Tom House guy,” Pinson said. “I always loved the things he’s said and the research he’s done. He’s the pitching guru.”
As he aged, Pinson fell in love with that process and realized he could make a life out of the sport he loves.
Smith said it was his sophomore year of high school when he started playing travel ball, which helped him develop connections and move closer to his goal of playing at the next level.
“I had some phenomenal coaches, and they told me I could be a good fit at some small division one school, and I was like, ‘yeah, that’d be awesome,’” Pinson said.
Pinson’s determination to learn and improve led to his high school domination, which sparked his recruitment to Kennesaw State.
May 2021- Smith Pinson’s mother, Nancy Pinson, watches Smith officially sign to pitch at Kennesaw State. (Courtesy of WALB 10 News)
Pinson said his dad’s old-school approach to pitching educated him on ways to improve in today’s modern era.
Pinson said his dad offered him advice and critiques, but he also took the time to focus on being a good dad.
Pinson’s first year in college showcased 24 appearances and a 4.98 ERA. Year two saw fewer outings, but an increase in production.
Pinson posted a 2.27 ERA — a team-best.
Entering his third year in school, Pinson becomes eligible for the MLB draft next summer. Pinson now finds himself on The Cape, hoping to move eyes in his direction as he faces some of the nation’s top talent.
“I think coming to The Cape is that next step for me,” Pinson said. “It’s a stepping stone to get to the big leagues, but still a dream for me.”
With his mother’s memory backing him and the support of his family, Pinson enjoys every moment in this long process toward achieving a lifetime goal.
“It feels like I’m a kid playing again,” Pinson said.