Mets 1B/OF Dominic Smith is heading into the 2020 season aiming to stay on the 26-man roster throughout the year, and make big contributions like his walk-off homer that ended the 2019 season on the highest note.
The journey up until this point for the former first-rounder has had its ups and downs, but in an exclusive 1-on-1 with SNY, Smith discussed that journey and explained why he's so excited to see what this Mets team can do this year.
SNY: We were just talking about how we were in Las Vegas, which was 3-4 years ago, but it feels like a lifetime ago I'm assuming for you?
Smith: Definitely feels like a lifetime ago for sure. I was just in Vegas in 2018 and spending a full year in the big leagues and even having a full offseason since then, it definitely does feel like I was playing in Vegas several years ago.
SNY: How would you describe the journey up to this point?
Smith: It was fun. I learned a lot and I think that's what helped me get to this level -- by always trying to learn and trying to get better. Obviously, I played well going up through the minor leagues, you know, my first four years, five years was really good and then I hit a hiccup when I first got called up after Triple-A. I played sub-par and I came into spring training next year, and everybody knows I was obviously late and then got hurt. I really just took a step back and looked at myself in the mirror and I wanted to improve and be the player the Mets believe they had when they drafted me in the first round.
SNY: How did you improve into the player the Mets wanted you to be?
Smith: I just did my research. When I got to the big leagues, I saw some of the best players in the world and I saw their routines, what they did, what they implemented on an everyday basis. So I just wanted to implement those things with the diet, with the mobility, with the physical therapy, soft tissue [work]. Just so many things that keep them at elite levels that I finally got exposed to when I was in the majors. I just wanted to add it to my routine in the offseason.
SNY: With all these things you did, was there one thing in particular that really, you felt, made the biggest difference?
Smith: Probably my sleep apnea. Getting that figured out and taking care of, it really did help. It was life-changing and like I said, it changed my career and my life.
SNY: When you're a professional athlete, how significant is sleep? And who did you talk to?
Smith: It's so crazy because we don't think it's a big deal. The Mets had a sleep doctor come in last year and she told us on a nightly average, professional athletes, we need 10 hours of sleep just to function at a high level. We all chuckled and laughed around the room because none of us would get 10 hours of sleep. And she was equivalating only getting six hours to waking up and drinking four beers. That's the way you feel when you're groggy and tired and just foggy in the head. We really took a step back and saw and understood how serious sleep is for a professional athlete to perform at the highest level.
SNY: Everyone knows how your season ended on a high note, but how frustrating was it dealing with the injury last year?
Smith: Yeah, it was definitely frustrating just because I couldn't go out there and help my team. Going every day and supporting my team was obviously fun, but we played a ton of tough games and it just kinda ate me up inside that I wasn't there to go and grind and battle with my guys because we're a family, we're together more than we're with our families. So, to see my guys go out to battle and me not be able to help was very frustrating.
SNY: Do you feel you're at the point now where you've proved to everybody out there that you can do this full-time?
Smith: I feel like I have, but it is what it is. That stuff that I did in the past is the past. We still have to look forward to the future and the present, and 2020 is here and I'm excited to see my improvements and see me put up better numbers this year because of the work I put in last year.
So, like I said, that stuff doesn't bother me. People feel like I'm ready. If they don't, everybody has an opinion - they're entitled to that. I know in my heart that I'm going to go out there every day, play hard and continue to prove that I belong in the major leagues.
SNY: Every team in the NL East made improvements, so it's going to be tough. But you said you're excited about this team. Why?
Smith: I just think the way we played down the stretch last year, and a lot of people started to realize it was a lot of our first full seasons in the big leagues. You know Pete [Alonso's] first full year, my first full year, [Jeff] McNeil, J.D. [Davis]. So that's a lot of positives to come out with the way we finished the year last year with guys with such few big league service time. So I feel like we can build on that coming on to this year.
Brodie made a couple big acquisitions. We got [Dellin] Betances now and we all believe in Edwin [Diaz]. We know he's going to bounce back this year. We believe in [Jeurys] Familia. They're the heart of that bullpen and our rotation - we love our rotation. We have depth now in our rotation and we have depth in the position players as well. So we're very excited especially the young guys because everybody is coming into 2020 healthy and we're just excited to showcase our ability and talents and show the league what we can do.
SNY: How important is it for you to not only go out there and be successful as a major leaguer, but to do it with these guys?
Smith: I think it means a lot to us because like you said, we all came up through the minor leagues together. The long bus rides with Amed [Rosario] and McNeil - even Pete. I played with him in Triple-A in 2018. Just to see how hard we worked for us to have individual success, it made us hungry for the team's success which is a World Series championship. So that was something that we set out early in the offseason and we kept in contact all offseason in a group chat and we really just pushed each other to get better and to push each other just to see our potential and just see how far we can go.
We know the talent we have and we always look good on paper, but there's a difference between looking good on paper and actually going out there and doing something about it. We wanted to be that team that does something about it and to do it with some of our best friends. That's something that's a story book and a dream come true.
SNY: You've become a fan favorite. Why do you think that is?
Smith: It's been awesome. I think just because I'm a genuine person. I guess that kinda rubs off on people. It's just been awesome. It's something I got back to because this is how I was throughout the whole minor leagues, and then obviously you get to the major leagues, you struggle a little bit and then you're searching, you're trying to figure out where you belong or where you fit in. You don't want to step on people's toes, but Brodie came in last year and he told us we're going to have fun, we're going to win and we're going to be ourselves. So, the young guys, we really ran with that and we became ourselves and I think that's why you see the success.
I love the fans. They bring so much energy. Like I said, down the stretch last year, a lot of people who worked for the team and was a part of the team when we went to the World Series, they said last year down the stretch the stadium was more electric than it was in the World Series. That just shows the passion they bring every night.