by: Caleb Odom
photo by: Joshua Thurston
For Troy Assistant Coach Mark Smartt his office, which overlooks Riddle-Pace Field, is a shine of his past.
A collection of memories including a jersey, signed baseballs and old newspaper clippings serve as reminders of Smartt’s celebrated past while he plans for the future as a coach at his alma mater.
The jersey, framed on the wall of his office, was from the 1986-87 seasons when Smartt played second base at Troy then called Troy State.
The cardinal jersey bearing the number nine is significant to Smartt because when he played at Troy his team won the Division II National Championship two years in a row.
“I was incredibly lucky to play here,” Smartt said. “I was a good solid role player on two outstanding baseball teams with talent everywhere.”
Smartt remembers meeting legendary Troy Coach Chase Riddle for the first time and being overwhelmed at him as a person.
While playing for Coach Riddle, Smartt hit .405 in ’86 good for second on the team and finished his career with the third highest batting average in school history, a .379 clip, while having a .954 career fielding percentage with the Trojans.
The team Smartt played on went 82-18 in the two year stretch and when it was all said and done, 19 of those players during the ’86 and ’87 seasons played professional.
Smartt reflected on what Riddle meant to him as a young person while at Troy and even said that Riddle helped him be the husband and father he is today.
Smartt was one of Riddle’s players who even named his son Chase after the hall of fame coach.
The story of Coach Pierce’s number 52 is well documented being the reverse of Coach Riddle’s number 25 but few know the story of Smartt’s number nine.
As a freshman junior college player, Smartt missed out on picking his number so he was given number nine, the only number remaining and to this day the number has stuck.
Eleven years ago when Coach Bobby Pierce took the job at Troy he needed an assistant coach he could count on.
“When I got the opportunity to come to Troy,” Pierce said. “The only assistant coach that made total sense to me was the guy that had Troy University Trojans written all over him from day one and that was Mark Smartt.”
Over the years at Troy, now as a coach, Smartt has become the head recruiter, hitting coach with Pierce, third base coach and infield coach, schedule maker and travel planner for the team.
“He is outstanding at seeing things that need to be done and attacking them and always doing them the right way,” Pierce said. “Nobody has to go behind Mark Smartt.”
Smartt’s wife Deborah is also a graduate of Troy so when their daughter Taylor chose to play softball at Troy they couldn’t help but be excited about the situation as a family.
“I’m awfully proud of my daughter regardless of where she plays or if she plays,” Smartt said. “We are a family of Troy people.”
As for Taylor Smartt, who plays second base like her father did, she is glad her dad gets to watch her play softball for the Trojans sometimes.
“I think it is definitely a big deal that I’m actually here at Troy playing in the same place that he played at.” Taylor said.
The coaching of young players is why Smartt loves his job so much at Troy.
“To be involved daily with young people it’s the most rewarding thing,” Smartt said.
During his time at Troy, Smartt has earned the respect of the players he has coached including current player Danny Collins.
“I think Coach Smartt and his mentality win the game,” Collins said. “You don’t get a much better coach than what Coach Smartt is. He takes his job personal; he is real easy to talk to from a player standpoint. He’s been a big part of my success in the last couple of years.”
He is the man throwing batting practice everyday, fixing final touches on the mound before game time and giving base runners the signs.
In a nutshell, Mark Smartt is the definition of Troy Baseball but he is too humble to tell you that so he would give the credit to Coach Pierce, who already gave the credit to him. Its funny how two great friends tend to do things like that.