Getting started: The Troy Trojans kicked off the start of practice Friday in preparations for the 2016 season
Published 3:00 am Saturday, January 30, 2016
With three weeks until opening day, the Troy Trojans baseball team hit the field for their first day of team practice Friday afternoon.
It will be the first year for head coach Mark Smartt, who takes over after working as an assistant under former manager Bobby Pierce.
“This is an important day for our program,” Smartt said Friday. “We have beautiful sunny afternoon. The players and coaches are really excited. For me, it’s a first step in a long journey that will start in three weeks.”
Smartt said even after 26 years as a coach, the start of the season brings butterflies and excitement.
“I don’t know if the emotions are different,” Smartt said. “My awareness for what is going on in every phase is different. I have been responsible for certain things; now I am responsible for all. I am fully prepared for what is in front of us.”
Smartt believes he has the players on the roster for a successful season.
The Trojans will rely heavily on a pitching staff that they hope will sit atop the Sun Belt conference. Grant Bennett and Lucas Brown have the potential to be as dynamic of a one-two punch as any in the league and with Corey Childress in the mix, the Trojans have a recipe for success.
“Having Grant Bennett and Lucas Brown at the top of your rotation sure makes my job easier,” Smartt said. “After that, we do have some work to do to find out who fits where. Childress will fit in somewhere predominately with that since he is a returning starter.”
The Trojans will feature several new faces and players returning from a year ago will be looked at to provide stability.
“The two guys that will draw the most attention early are Matt Sanders and Reed Long,” Smartt said. “Those are our two most prominent returners. We are going to look to them to improve their play from their freshman year to their sophomore year.”
There will be two other notable names scribbled into the Trojans lineup in 2016. Charles Henderson’s Chase Smartt and Joey Denison will begin their careers with Troy. Denison transferred to Troy after spending his first two years at Southern Union Community College.
“It’s great to have him back in Troy,” Smartt said. “Joey is an outstanding player. I am really proud he wanted to come back home and I look for him to have success in our program.”
“It’s awesome,” Denison said. “There are a lot of familiar faces in town. I am really enjoying right now after moving off for two years and coming back it is really comfortable for me right now.”
Smartt comes to Troy after having an incredible career at Charles Henderson and his father and new manager couldn’t be more excited to have him in his program.
“He is my son and that is not going to change,” Coach Smartt said. “He is also a player on the team and he has the same opportunity to compete as anyone on the team. I try my best to separate the two. I am very proud of the fact that I am around him every single day.”
Although the Trojans are deep at catcher, the younger Smartt could play a pivotal role.
“I am very excited,” Chase said. “Putting the Trojans across my chest is very important to me because my dad played here. There are Trojans everywhere. It’s going to be an awesome experience.”
The Trojans will officially begin the regular season on Feb. 19 against Northern Kentucky.