JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (March 6, 2018) – A night of talking baseball and life took place in Johnson City Tuesday night, as MLB Hall of Famer and former Atlanta Braves ace John Smoltz was the spotlight of ETSU baseball’s “Talkin’ Hardball” event.
The event — sponsored by Ballad Health — allowed fans of all ages to mingle with Smoltz and the ETSU baseball team and grab photos and autographs.
Prior to the event, Smoltz arrived at Thomas Stadium and addressed the ETSU baseball team after practice in the third base dugout. Smoltz told stories, answered questions from the players and coaches and then left one piece of advice before closing.
“It's a privilege to wear a uniform,” Smoltz told the team. “With your discipline and willingness to learn, remember that wearing that uniform is not a right; it's a privilege. Whether you're five or you're in college, give it your best, leave no regrets and have fun.”
ETSU junior pitcher James Giambalvo said Smoltz’s advice resonated with him instantly, recalling his entire speech nearly word for word.
“It’s not everyday you get to hear from an MLB player — much less a hall of famer,” Giambalvo said. “What I took away from his advice to us today was that you never know when life will hit you. He’s had his ups and downs like we have as failure is a part of this game, but learning to succeed with failure is what he’s done.”
Immediately following the speech to the team, Smoltz spoke to a group of local children in the youth clinic portion. The group of nearly 50 youth leaguers surrounded home plate at Thomas Stadium as Smoltz answered questions and gave advice to both the children and their parents in the stands.
After the talk, the ETSU baseball team let the attendees run the bases and play in the infield, outfield or pitcher’s mound with their preferred position. After that, the children marveled as ETSU sluggers such as Christian Bailey (Kingsport, Tenn.) and Ethan Rice (Erwin, Tenn.) hit home runs during batting practice.
The event later moved to the Johnson City Country Club, as attendees enjoyed ballpark fare while listening to Smoltz talk about his career and his personal life. Smoltz also answered a number of questions from attendees, lasting nearly an hour.
After his inspiring speech, the crowd stood in applause with a couple of fans thanking him on behalf of the crowd. Smoltz later signed autographs and took photos with fans as part of the “Extra Innings” post-event gathering.
When all was said and done, Smoltz gave his support to the Bucs and the baseball program. In return, the team presented him with a No. 29 ETSU jersey of his own, capping off an memorable night for all who participated.
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