Teacher, coach, husband, father.
Cody Smith has achieved a lot since graduating from St. Joseph High School as a member of the Class of 2000.
Smith can now add one more accomplishment.
After leading the Knights into the CIF Southern Playoffs, Smith has been voted the Lee Central Coast Newspapers’ baseball Coach of the Year.
In 2018, St. Joseph broke through to earn a CIF playoff spot for the second time in Smith’s four years at the helm of Knights’ baseball program.
The Knights earned their spot with an 11-9-1 PAC 8 record (18-13-1 overall) that was good for fourth place in the league.
“In the PAC 8, we play three-game series,” said Smith. “I set some goals every year. The first is to win every series. If you do that, the worst you’ll be is 14-7 in the league and that will get you a playoff spot. It helps with our mental approach. I wanted the players to understand that sometimes you’ll lose the first game of a series but you can still come back and win the series.”
The Knights got off to a strong start in their PAC 8 campaign, taking two of three from eventual second-place finisher Atascadero (14-7 PAC 8).
They followed by winning one-of-three against eventual league champion San Luis Obispo (17-4); one of three against Foster Road rival Righetti (11-10); before an unusual 1-1-1 series against eventual third-place finisher Paso Robles (12-8-1).
The Knights opened the Paso Robles series with a 7-7 tie in a game that went 11 innings before being called.
“That tie ended up helping us, especially if a possible playoff spot came down to tie-breakers,” said Smith. “The game went so late. It got to a point where my guys said, 'Hey, coach, we can’t see the ball’ and eventually the game was called because of darkness.”
When the regular season ended, the tie helped St. Joseph finish one half game ahead of Righetti in the league standings.
After dropping their first game of the Mission Prep series, the Knights went on a six-game streak — winning the next two against Mission Prep and sweeping all three from Pioneer Valley before their regular season ending series against Arroyo Grande.
The Knights 4-0 win in the opener against A.G. wrapped up fourth place and the Knights’ spot in the playoffs.
“I knew going into that last series that we needed to win one game to make it to the playoffs. Winning that first game was big,” said Smith. “In the first inning, Zach Morris had a 12-pitch at bat. He ended up hitting a three-run home run to win it.”
The Knights began the playoffs on the road, routing Sherman Oaks Buckley 9-0.
“Isaac Baez was our starting pitcher,” said Smith. “His last game pitching was probably his best game. Isaac gave up one first-inning hit then retired 18 straight.”
Scoring four times in the second inning, St. Joseph’s batters put the game on ice early. The Knights added another three runs in the fifth and two more in the seventh to back Baez’s shutout.
The Knights’ season came to an end with a 7-1 loss at home to Fontana Summit in the second round.
“Baseball is a humbling game,” said Smith. “We outhit them and didn’t make any errors. All their hits were singles but their hits were more timely than ours — but that’s baseball.”
The majority of St. Joseph players have been with Smith from the start.
Thirteen of the 19 players were seniors.
“It shows that the seniors really bought into our program,” said Smith. “The senior class led by example. They carried on the legacy that we had for years, since I was a student there.”
After his St. Joseph playing career, Smith went on to pitch for two years at Hancock College and one at Fresno State before signing a pro contract with the Texas Rangers.
“It’s hard to turn down your dream and I had the opportunity to sign as a non-drafted free agent,” said Smith. “But my mom, Patricia (a Righetti graduate), made me promise that I’d get my degree and I continued at Fresno State and got my degree (in kinesiology) in four years.”
Smith later earned a master’s degree in education from Chapman University and added his teaching credential after that.
Following in the footsteps of his father Bryn Smith, who pitched for 13 years in the major leagues with Montreal, St. Louis and Colorado, Cody Smith pitched in the Rangers’ farm system but was released in the spring of 2006.
“Three hours later, I signed with Kansas City,” said Smith. “I was released one more time and signed with San Diego. But I blew out my labrum, an injury to my shoulder joint, and I knew I was done.”
Smith returned home and helped out at Pioneer Valley and Hancock before moving over to St. Joseph four years ago.
“I was the Dean of Students for three years and when coach (Dustin) Davis left, I slid into his P.E. spot.”
Smith and his wife Hallie, a former Lompoc High and Hancock College softball player who went to Fresno State with her future husband and is now teaching at Pioneer Valley, have three children; soon to be 8-years-old Audra, 6-year-old Jackson and soon to be 3 Maddux.
In the fall, Smith will be joining his wife at Pioneer Valley. In early July, Smith was named the Panthers' new baseball head coach. He'll also be joining the PVHS faculty.
“This year we were strong on the mound, strong on defense and strong on offense,” said Smith. “I know we lost a lot of great players to graduation but we still have a solid core coming back next year.”