Prep Baseball Report

Smith Ready To Show Off His Game At North Dakota State

Bruce Hefflinger
PBR Canada Senior Writer

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Smith Ready To Show Off His Game At North Dakota State

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Dante Smith OF / Pickering, ON / 2024

AJAX, Ontario - When Dante Smith finally had a chance to see North Dakota State University he was admittedly surprised.

“My expectations were kinda low,” Smith said about the school located in Fargo, the largest city in the state. “But once I was there I knew it was the place I wanted to be.”

A commitment to North Dakota State, which plays baseball in the Summit League, came mid-September after being sent links to see the school. Interest developed during the summer while Smith was playing with the Toronto Mets in Indiana, Ohio and Georgia.

“We started talking in early August,” the top-rated 2024 outfielder in Ontario related. “I liked the coach, we had a good connection. That’s the first thing that attracted me. They watched me in the Canada Cup and that’s when I got my offer.”

Once Smith eventually made the trip to see the college in person - a 17-hour drive or two one-hour flights, depending on the mode of transportation - he was hooked.

“I met all the players and saw the campus,” the Pickerington High School senior reflected. “It’s a great area to be in, I love the people there.”

The cold North Dakota weather was no factor at all in making a decision.

“As a Canadian I’m used to the weather,” Smith noted. “It’s not as bad.”

It was his father who was instrumental in Smith’s love of the game and desire to play at the next level.

“Since I was a kid I’ve wanted to play college baseball,” the 12th-ranked 2024 from Ontario explained. “My dad went to Point Park University in Pittsburgh where he played outfield. He helped me and set a goal for me to play in college and it’s cool to have it come true at the D-I level. He taught me most everything I know. He’s the main reason I’m where I’m at today.”

Playing better competition was an important part in making improvement to get to the point of being a Division I college commit.
“When I transitioned to the CPBL that was a big step,” Smith said. “I remember the first weekend in this league playing against the older Toronto Mets team going against the fastest pitcher I ever faced. I struck out five times. I’d never seen that kind of speed before. But I trained in the offseason, worked on hitting higher velocity and now it feels natural.”

North Dakota State likes what the 17-year-old can bring to the Division I program.

“Some of the things they said stood out to them was the way I use my speed in the outfield and on the basepaths to help my team score runs, and my tool to take away runs,” Smith related. “They also like my ability to get on base as a leadoff hitter to get in a pitcher’s head and score some runs.”

In addition to his father, Smith has had help in both development and recruitment in his baseball journey to play at North Dakota State, which has finished in the top two in each of the past three seasons in the Summit League.

“Doug McKeen has been my hitting coach the last two years and he’s helped me with the mental side,” Smith said. “My family has been here to support me and my teammates and coaches believing in me and trusting me has also been big.

“The main thing with my recruiting process was my coach, Rich Leitch, reaching out to schools and helping me get exposure. Going to PBR events like the Canada Cup, with their videos and posts on me, is when schools started coming into the picture.”

The 5-10 170-pound left-handed hitting outfielder is confident he can be a big asset to the Bisons.

“I feel I will be able to come in and do my thing as an outfielder and show that I’m capable of possibly being a starter as a freshman,” Smith said. “I’ll use my speed to my advantage, both on offense and defense, and hopefully they will notice and they can help me get where I want to be.”

Admittedly, it was a great feeling to make a commitment and know where a college home will be in the future.

“Once I committed there was a lot of weight off my shoulders and I felt good about myself to be at a place that feels like home and that wants me,” Smith explained. “I was able to accomplish one of my dreams, but I hope it’s only the first step in the remainder of my baseball career.”

Smith, who carries a 4.0 GPA and has plans to major in exercise science at North Dakota State, is excited at what lies ahead.

“I’m looking forward to the competition and seeing how I compare with other baseball players,” Smith concluded. “It will feel good to move out and experience life as an adult.”

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