Andrew Smith and Sims Griffith are friends with the same expectations in the Heartland Baseball Classic, even though they will take very different roads once this week-long baseball showcase for some of the nation’s top talent representing seven different states is complete in Oklahoma.
“It’s one of those experiences that’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said Griffith, who recently graduated from Gainesville and will continue playing baseball at Furman University next year.
Smith, a two-sport star and recent North Hall High graduate, may be playing baseball for the last time, after hitting .495 with 22 RBIs and 52 runs scored as a senior for the Trojans. Next year, Smith will suit up with Air Force on a football scholarship.
It’s still unknown whether or not he’ll have a chance to play baseball at the collegiate level.
“This could be the last time I get to play baseball, so I’m trying to soak it all in,” Smith said.
As a senior, Griffith hit .441 with 24 RBIs and 41 runs, while also serving as a reliever for the Red Elephants, who reached the Class AAAAA state semifinals.
Even though Smith and Griffith played at rival high schools in Hall County, their friendship goes back to age 5 when they suited up for the same T-ball program, the YMCA Astros.
Since then, they’ve routinely been together in summer league programs, playing for the same team ‘seven or eight times,’ according to Smith.
Because they’ve been friends for so long, Smith and Griffith wanted to take in the Heartland Baseball Classic experience together before they go their separate ways.
They drove together to the central part of Oklahoma and are staying with the same host family, along with another player.
Smith and Griffith have helped Team Georgia get off to a 3-1 start, while also making it a point to enjoy their time off the field.
They took in a Home Run Derby that helped kick off the festivities at the University of Oklahoma’s stadium. They have also been able to visit some of the local attractions, including a planned trip to Oklahoma City on Thursday night.
Team Georgia has a 20-player roster with four coaches.
Griffith (5 for 10 through four games) had one of Georgia’s hot bats in an 8-7 come-from-behind win against Ohio.
After trailing 7-4 in the sixth inning, Griffith drove in a run with a triple and scored the tying run. Georgia also came back from four down to beat Texas 8-7, in addition to a 20-7 victory against Colorado. Georgia’s only loss so far was 8-1 against Maryland on Tuesday. Other states represented in the Heartland Classic are Oklahoma and Arkansas.
Griffith and Smith, who both played primarily shortstop in high school, have been cross-training in Oklahoma.
Griffith has picked up experience playing third base, while Smith has played a lot at second base.
Even though his baseball future is still up in the air, Smith has no reservations about making the long trip to play, especially since it might be his final experience on the diamond.
“My parents really wanted me to go play and have this experience in Oklahoma,” Smith said.