Jake Smolinski is on a mission to prove he’s a guy who can get the job done when his number is called, and he has worked to do just that during his time in Frisco. Making a strong first impression is important in any profession, and since being signed as a free agent by the Texas Rangers organization this past offseason, Smolinski has raised some eyebrows with his play.
Smolinski has been smoldering at the plate for the past month picking up a hit in 25 of his last 27 ballgames. The left fielder said he’s made a concerted effort to get on base and make the most of his time while on the field.
“I don’t want to be known as somebody who can’t run well in the outfield or can’t run the bases well,” Smolinski said. “The speed aspect of the game is an important part and it’s something that I work hard in the offseason to try and maintain and get better at.”
That offseason work the RoughRiders outfielder put in has paid off as Smolinski seems to have made a habit of getting on base. So far this season, he ranks in the top five in triples (3), extra base hits (17) and on-base percentage (.403) in the Texas League. Smolinski’s ability to get hits (48), which is a category he also ranks in the top five in the league, and pound the ball (six home runs) isn’t the only reason he often finds himself on base. He said his patience to work the count has been a part of his game since he was a teenager.
“It’s something that I’ve always done even back in high school,” Smolinski said. “And since I’ve been in pro ball, I think when you try and focus on one pitch at a time and not worry about the whole at-bat, it makes it that much easier.”
Making the transition to a new team from year to year isn’t always the easiest thing to do, as different cities, people and organizations inevitably take some getting used to. Last year alone, the Illinois-born outfielder played in both Florida and Lousiana for three different teams.
Since being drafted 70th overall by the Washington Nationals in 2007, Smolinski has dealt with a number of injuries that have forced him to spend time on the disabled list. After playing seven seasons in the minor leagues with the Washington and Miami organizations, he became a free agent following the 2013 campaign, and the Rangers quickly moved to sign him in November.
This year, Smolinski has experienced stability unlike ever before in his professional career. The 25-year-old is the only RoughRider to play in every game (44) so far and has found his rhythm due to this consistency. He said finding a home with the ballclub took no time at all.
“We have fun together,” Smolinski said. “I really think we play well together. It’s been a good experience. And it’s very professional here and definitely run the right way.”
It seems to be a good partnership as Smolinski has really found his groove and found it fast.
“I try to compete every time I’m up at the plate,” Smolinski said.
If he keeps competing and slugging at such a high level, Smolinski has a good chance to extend his recent hot streak into an exceptionally impressive season.