Smartt happy to be back in Troy

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 14, 2002

Sports Editor

Mark Smartt has something he’d like to share with the Troy State baseball team.

Smartt, named top assistant by new Trojans’ head coach Bobby Pierce on Wednesday, was a member of TSU’s twin Division II national championship teams in 1986 and 1987.

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Smartt said it was difficult to describe what those back-to-back title years were like, but he hopes to pass some of those feelings on to Troy State’s current group of players.

"It’s hard to tell you out it was," said Smartt following Wednesday’s press conference. "But just to know that we were the best team…hopefully, we’ll be able to share that experience with the players we’ll have in our program from now on."

Smartt transferred from Dekalb Central Junior College and in 1986 he finished second on the team in hitting with a batting average of .406, the fifth-highest single season mark in TSU history. He finished his career, hitting .379 and is currently second on the Trojans’ all-time batting charts.

But it was being a part of two national title runs that forever linked Mark Smartt with Troy State’s baseball tradition.

"Several things," Smartt said when asked what he remembered most about those two years. "The support from the community, Coach (Chase) Riddle, the players…the feeling of family and how much the university meant to us and how much we wanted to represent the university. Knowing that we were the best team in the country was an unbelievable feeling."

Following graduation, Smartt spent a year under Riddle as an assistant coach. He then moved on to the University of West Alabama, spending 11 seasons in Livingston, his final five as head coach of the Tigers. He was able to experience some of his past glory once again when UWA advanced to the Division II College World Series in 1992, capturing both the Gulf South Conference and South Central Regional Championships along the way.

The Gulf South was undoubtedly where he met Pierce, his future boss, who was tasked with starting a baseball program at the University of Alabama-Huntsville in 1995. Likewise, Smartt was named UWA’s head coach that same year. In the years of competition that followed between the two coaches, a friendship was formed and Pierce wanted Smartt by his side at Troy State when the head spot became vacant. Smartt has spent the past two seasons working with the parks and recreation department in Moody.

"Mark is a Troy man and will be a great fit," said Pierce. "He is an excellent baseball coach and I am looking forward to working with him. I can’t think of a better guy for the position."

Smartt said he spent Wednesday morning walking the diamond at the newly-renovated Riddle-Pace Field and admiring the overall growth of Troy State University. Gone are the skeletal bleachers and shabby press box that Smartt remembered as being behind home plate. In their place now stands a sparkling, new aluminum grandstand and brick structure.

Smartt said he doesn’t see the new stadium as something he "missed out on."

"Time involves change," he said. "The program’s grown, the university’s grown and the community’s grown. I’m proud to come back and experience some of that growth. I’m looking forward to getting out on the field. I’m really, really proud of the way it looks and proud to know that I had a small part in that years ago."

However, Smartt does long for the days when crowds flocked to Riddle-Pace Field to watch the Trojans play.

"I’m proud to get a chance to come back home and I’m looking forward to working to get people back in support of the program," he said.