CLARION, Pa. (EYT/D9) — Dawson Smail travels the country playing baseball.
He’s been to Florida, Georgia, Alabama and just about everywhere in between there and his home in Clarion.
He plays as many as 60 games a summer for his travel team, as well as a league in Youngstown, Ohio, which is considered one of the best in the region.
When it comes down to it, though, Smail most enjoys the crisp springs of Western Pennsylvania and putting on his Clarion High School uniform.
“I love high school baseball,” Smail said. “I love it a lot more than travel ball. It’s like playing with your family out there. You’re close with your team and your coaches, and I love playing in front of my town. I just really enjoy high school ball.”
He’ll have two more years of that.
Then, it’s off to play in college.
That decision has already been made. To some it may seem early to chose a collegiate landing spot after a sophomore season in high school, but that has become the norm — especially for Division I baseball prospects.
Smail made his choice late last week — Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio — out of a slew of other opportunities.
“I’m really, really close with their coaching staff,” Smail said. “They made me feel like I’m at home when I’m there. It’s a great environment and I got a really good deal to go play there. It’s not too far away from home. It fit the bill perfectly.
“I definitely didn’t rush anything — I like to have the pressure off my chest,” Smail added about committing between his sophomore and junior years. “It just gives me more time to get closer with the coaches as the years go on. And when I get to campus, I’ll basically know them for two years. “
Smail was a hot commodity. He didn’t lack Division I suitors.
That came because of his skill set, which he only improved upon this past spring.
After batting .400 has a freshman at Clarion, Smail hit .508 with 12 doubles, 11 RBI and 10 stolen bases at the top of the Bobcat batting order as a sophomore.
Out of the 17 games he played, he had multiple hits in 10 of them. Only twice this season did he go hitless.
Smail was as tough an out as there was. In 71 plate appearances, he struck out only twice.
He was also a stellar defender in the outfield.
Although he craves high school baseball games, his development has also come during the summer months playing on his travel team and in Youngstown.
“It’s really fun,” Smail said. “But it can be frustrating, especially when you get in the box against a lefty throwing 94. Basically, it just teaches me that there’s always going to be someone out there a little but ahead of you and you just have to keep working and keep moving up the chain.”
Smail, though, has some big dreams when it comes to baseball, far beyond high school — and Xavier as well.
Smail sees the next two years in high school as crucial. He wants to get bigger. Stronger. Faster. He wants to add some pop to his bat. He wants to be ready to contribute and excel at Xavier the day he steps on campus.
After that, he hopes to get a shot at a professional baseball career.
“It’s always been my dream,” Smail said.
Smail’s summer of baseball is over.
Now, he’s focusing on another sport — football.
Smail played for Central Clarion as a freshman, starting on the defensive side of the ball, but opted to play baseball last fall instead of football.
This year, he’s back.
“I missed it,” he said. “I missed playing under the Friday night lights.”
Smail has just as much love for football as he has for baseball.
He was also a standout in junior high.
“I’m committed for baseball, so it was a lot easier decision to put the pads back on,” Smail said. “It’s a nice break from baseball.”