BASEBALL REPORT: Versatility Means Options

Oct. 19, 2012


Both on and off the field, junior Taylor Smart's first few weeks at Tennessee have been an entirely new experience, something the transfer from Western Nevada College seems to enjoy.

"It's been great," Smart said. "It's nothing that I am really used to, I didn't have this type of atmosphere at home. This is an amazing place, the whole atmosphere, the way athletes are treated and I am just really blessed to be out here."

A Maple Valley, Wash., native, Smart is quickly establishing himself as a leading candidate to start at second base for the Vols this spring.

"I've played both short and second my whole life so it has kind of been a second-nature thing," Smart said. "I've played second base my whole career and I am just continuing to progress and get better faster. That is my big thing is to get better faster than anybody and be the best guy.

"I'm a scrappy player. I wouldn't say that any one thing is going to jump out at you, but I feel like I get the job done. I am a line-drive hitter, I can play defense pretty good, can turn a great double play, I feel, and I am just trying to work my butt off and be the best I can be."

With so many newcomers on the roster, there has been no time to sit around and wait for leaders to emerge. Instead, Smart has let his play on the field do the talking.

"Leading by example is kind of what I like to do," Smart said. "I'm not a big rah-rah guy, I can, but I really like to lead by example and prove to the younger guys what it takes to be a college baseball player. You have to work your butt off every day, get after it in the weight room and in the class room as well."

After originally signing with UNLV out of high school, Smart instead opted for the junior college route. Somewhat ironically, his Division I career will still start in Las Vegas, where the Vols are set to open the 2012 campaign, Feb. 15-16.

"I actually signed with them out of high school," Smart said. "I ended up not going there and going to a junior college in Nevada, but it is kind of funny how that works. It will be fun to go back there."

Following his junior college career, Smart made his decision to become a Vol because of the caliber of coaching staff assembled at Rocky Top.

"They demand a lot, but that is why I came here," Smart said. "I want to be the best player I can be and be on the best team. That is the biggest reason why I came here is to play for these guys, to improve and hopefully win an SEC title and go to the College World Series."

Baseball isn't the only sport Smart enjoys, even if he is still working his way to the top in his second choice.

"I am an avid ping pong player," Smart said. "I have some rivalries going on with some guys, Vincent Jackson [specifically]. We get after it in there, not only on the field but on the table too. He has me four games to three right now though, so I am going to be honest to myself. He has me right now."

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Part of the reason Tennessee added over 20 newcomers to its roster this season was to increase the overall athletic ability on the field. Through nearly a month of fall practice, that mission appears to have been a success.

With athletic ability comes versatility and UT head coach Dave Serrano certainly has plenty of options to play around with when looking at potential lineups for the upcoming season.

"I am really happy with a lot of the athletes we have in our program," Tennessee head coach Dave Serrano said. "Right now we have Vance Vizcaino moving from third base to the outfield to give us another option. He is a good athlete and the young man is swinging the bat well. We have Vincent Jackson who is a pitcher and an outfielder and we have Derek Lance who is flexible."

The biggest change, however, is likely to come at the hot corner where sophomore Will Maddox has spent most of his time this fall after starting all but one game at second base as a freshman.

"We've seen Will Maddox who we have moved around and now we think we have settled in with him at third base which is a great thing because it will allow a good leader on the corner," Serrano said. "Right now with Taylor Smart probably taking that role at second base it allows some older guys to flank A.J. [Simcox] who is playing tremendous and has done a good job at shortstop. We think very highly about what his future is going to be in this program."

So far, Maddox's adjustment to his likely new position has gone well.

"You move a lot more at second," Maddox said. "At third, it is more about knowing the bunt plays and having good instincts on bunts. I feel like I can bring a good mentality to third. Third base is new for me, but I'm having a great time playing it and I think I am getting better and better every day."

The most impressive part about Maddox this fall has been his positive attitude and constant hustle at practice every day, something Serrano has definitely taken notice of and hopes others on the team have as well.

"Hopefully it is very catching for a lot of our guys," Serrano said. "It is encouraging to have a young man like that out on the field, especially when we have a lot of new guys in the program so they can see the right way, the way that Tennessee baseball is going to be played. Will is a great ambassador to that and how he is going to play the game. He earns a lot of respect from people. Even if he doesn't have a good day statistically he always has a good day with his attitude."

For Maddox, it is all in a day's work.

"I feel like that is part of my role and that is just how I have always been as a player. I try to outwork everybody else that day and bring as much energy as I can every single day to the field and lead by example."

Making the decision to move Maddox easier for Serrano has been the play of junior college transfer Taylor Smart at second base.

"He has done a great job at second base," Maddox said. "It has been good to have another older guy at second. He has played great every day and is working with A.J. really well."

Having two experienced players on either side of freshman A.J. Simcox at shortstop has certainly helped ease his transition to the college game as well.

"He has looked better as practice has gone on every day," Maddox said. "He is still young, but he looks great. He doesn't play like he is young out there. He is going to continue to get better and better and he is really swinging the bat well also."

For more information about Tennessee baseball and a complete weekly practice schedule, visit, follow @Vol_Baseball on Twitter or like the Vols on Facebook at


As with any team that has over 20 new faces on the roster, Serrano knows the Vols will be a "work in progress" for the foreseeable future.

He has been extremely pleased, however, with the progress this year's squad has already made, especially in the off-the-field aspects of the game, and is confident that this group will leave a lasting impact on the Tennessee baseball program.

"I'm seeing a new team that is coming together and doing a lot of good things," Serrano said. "This coaching staff is never satisfied with anything and that is probably a good trait to have and it is a bad trait to have. We have a lot of stuff to continue to improve on. The good thing is that we have a little bit of time, the bad thing is that time will drift away very quickly. We have the right guys, we are going to grow up together as a unit and eventually this group is going to put this program back in the direction it should be going."


A freshman from nearby Johnson City, Tenn., Heath Loyd is quickly making a strong impression in his first fall at Rocky Top.

Although his exact role on the team is still up for discussion, head coach Dave Serrano is confident that he will make a positive contribution.

"When [Heath] came in, we didn't know exactly what was going to be his forte," Serrano said. "He has actually put some zeroes up on the board on the mound and has played the outfield even though his traits are as an infielder. Heath Loyd is a young man that I think will be a wonderful Volunteer, whether he is hitting .400 for us or getting four at-bats for us throughout the year. He is one of those guys that teams have to have to be successful and Heath continues to impress this coaching staff and, I think, win over the respect of his teammates with how he comes to play baseball every single day."


The Tennessee baseball team will host a free youth clinic from 9-10:30 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 27, at Lindsey Nelson Stadium in Knoxville.

All children from age six through the eighth grade are invited to attend the free clinic where the current Vol baseball team will instruct them in all phases of the game, including throwing, hitting, pitching, defense and base running.

Following the clinic, the Vols will hold a practice before scrimmaging at noon.

Participants should arrive with all necessary baseball equipment, including cleats, glove, baseball pants and hat.





  • Loading Tweets...
    1 second ago