Tallahassee, FL - On a cold, muggy morning, Mallex Smith is setting up a batting cage at the FAMU baseball field. He doesn't practice here much, but for him, it doesn't really matter where he practices. He often hangs around his old high school helping those on the Rickards baseball team prepare for the spring.
But, of course, he has his own preparation to concentrate on. Smith completed his first minor league season this past summer and will head to spring training in February.
"If it heats back up I'll be out here, if it rains I'll be out here. If it happens to snow I'll be out here," said Smith laughing. "Just getting my body ready for any environment and just going back to the basics."
The San Diego Padres farmhand was originally picked in the 13th round out of high school in 2011. But, instead of opting for the Milwaukee Brewers (he couldn't come to terms with the right contract), he chose Santa Fe College.
"It was a smart decision. It was a tough one, though - deciding whether to go to a four-year or JUCO," Smith said.
It paid off. Smith, who plays centerfield, batted .380 and stole 31 bases at Santa Fe. He was chosen in the fifth round of the 2012 MLB Draft by the Padres, eight rounds higher than the previous season.
"It's not just about getting drafted. Now it's about working your way up through the system and making it to the Major Leagues and staying in the Major Leagues."
After 25 games in Rookie ball, Smith was moved up to 'A' ball in Eugene, Oregon. In those 35 games, he combined to hit .305, 2 home runs, 15 RBI, 29 runs and 17 stolen bases.
"You're facing the best everyday," he said. "The best the other team's got to throw at you at that level everyday."
That's why he's spending so much time working on his game everyday.
"Just focus on what I have to do to get better for the next day and the next day," he said "Making sure that I'm not taking no steps back. Those are my goals right now."
One other goal he mentions could come sooner than maybe he even he expects. That's making it to the pros.