Built on the Southside

Speedy Mallex Smith sets major league steals record

By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook staff writter

Every video that shows Seattle outfielder Mallex Smith stealing a base highlights the basic elements of how he uses his speed to distract pitchers.

Smith, a product of Capital Park and Rickards High School, will tell you though that there is a little more that goes into being a successful base stealer. He has become so proficient at swiping bases that Smith ended the recent regular season as the stolen base champion in major league baseball.

Outfielder Mallex Smith, who started his baseball career on the Southside of Tallahassee, is the new king of steals in the major leagues.
Photo courtesy Seattle Mariners

“There isn’t a standard way to make it to the next base,” Smith said in an exclusive interview. “It’s timing, it’s rhythm, it’s understanding how fast everything is going to happen and understanding how fast you’re going to make it to the next base.”

The feat of stealing 46 bases makes Smith only the second Mariner in the club’s history to do so. The only other major league to come close to Smith record this season was Adalberto Mondesi of Kansas City. He was three behind Smith.

According to the Mariners, Smith joins 2001 rookie Ichiro Suzuki, who led the Majors with 56 steals as the only other Mariners to lead all of baseball in stolen bases.

“It was something that I’ve looked forward to for a long time,” Smith said. “I’m very happy about it.”

Ironically, Smith had his best season stealing bases while the Mariners couldn’t make it from the bottom rung of the standings after a 13-2 start to the season.

They finished with a 68-94 record in the America League West.

That didn’t distract Smith, who at one point during the season was sent back to Triple A for a spell.

“Even in the years when it didn’t go the way I wanted it to, I still was able to accomplish this feat,” he said. “It just made me feel good that in the midst of my struggles I was able to be extremely successful in one area like that. It’s crucial to the way I play. I’m a base stealer. I steal bases and that’s my thing.”

The breakdown of how Smith achieved the stolen base record is amazing. He stole 18 with no out, 17 with one out and 11 with two out.

Smith also had an individual high against the Texas Rangers, recording 10 stolen bases against them. That made him the third Mariner to do so behind Harold Reynolds and Susuki.

Tramayne Holmes, a former Rickards teammate with Smith during his senior season as a Raider, said Smith is an inspiration. Not only to him, but to local young players who aspire to make it to the majors.

“That puts it in the back of their heads that there’s somebody that came from this area that’s doing it right now; there is no reason they can’t do it,” said Holmes, who is now an outfielder with the Arizona Diamondbacks’ minor league team. “Our kids need to see somebody where they come from doing it so that they believe they really can.”

Holmes recalled how he first met Smith when he was a senior at Rickards and he was a budding player at Capital Park. Smith gave him plenty of advice then and is still doing so when they practice during the off-season.

Usually the focus is on how they could get better at what they do.

“Obviously he has major speed but I can run a little bit too,” Holmes said. “He helps me with base-stealing and the outfield. He is a good guy. He flies around the field and that’s why he is a natural for me.”

When what Smith has achieved is dissected, there are several accomplishments within the record. For instance, Smith was 7-for-7 in steals from third base this season. He also led the majors with 19 steals off left-handers.

But don’t think Smith is done or even bored.

“Every opportunity I get to throw on this jersey, especially at the big-league level, there is a privilege,” he said. “God is blessing me and I’m just fortunate to have the skills. I want to maximize all that I have while I’m here.”

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