COLUMBIA — It takes a special teenager to be regarded as a “Renaissance man.”
Joey Smith, a junior right fielder for the Hickman baseball team, has earned the title — at least from Kewpies coach Terry Whitney.
“He has a lot of different interests. A lot of those guys, you know, it’s baseball, baseball, baseball, but Joey has a lot of other things going on,” Whitney said.
Those other things are mainly Hickman’s band and choir, which Smith is actively involved in. Born into a musically gifted family, it comes as no surprise to those that know him that Smith plays trombone and sings when he’s not on the baseball field.
Smith, 17, has been playing trombone since the sixth grade. His brother also plays the instrument, his mother plays clarinet and his sister plays trumpet. He insists there are no family concerts at home, save a holiday tradition every year.
“During Christmas time my grandparents usually like having us play at their church,” he said.
Born in Peoria, Ill., Smith grew up a lover of Chicago sports teams, particularly the Cubs and the Bears. Smith’s love for baseball began when he played T-ball as a child. He’s played for Hickman’s junior varsity team since his freshman year, and has played right field his entire life. He wouldn’t have it any other way.
“You’re not involved a lot so there’s not too much pressure, but I love fly balls. I can get a fly ball a lot easier than a ground ball,” Smith said.
Being around sports all his life — he also played football growing up — has sparked an interest in becoming an athletic trainer. Although Smith hasn’t applied to colleges yet, he said Missouri State University is a top choice because of its athletic training program and choir.
“Knowing you’re going to help people get better if they’re hurt kind of inspired me to want to do it,” Smith said.
At 5 feet, 8 inches tall and 190 pounds, Smith isn’t the prototype for a typical baseball player. Whitney said that’s not a concern.
“He works real hard at baseball. He’s a great kid and does everything we ask of him,” he said.
Whitney praised Smith’s sense of humor and his happy-go-lucky attitude, both of which were evident on Monday at Hickman’s home game against Rolla. Smith and his teammates goofed around during warmups and danced to music ranging from Tupac’s “California Love” to “Family Tradition” by country singer Hank Williams Jr.
Smith said his relationship with Whitney is a special one.
“Me and coach are actually pretty close. He understands if I have a conflict, and he’s all about enjoying high school and getting involved,” Smith said.
His schedule doesn’t allow for much down time. Because band and choir are both classes at Hickman, Smith is usually required to travel with the groups for competitions. Sometimes a baseball game conflicts with a trip, but generally he can make time for all his commitments.
When he’s not pursuing his athletic or musical desires, Smith volunteers with his Community United Methodist Church youth group. He’s been on summer mission trips to Kentucky and Alabama, where he has helped fix a women’s shelter by putting up drywall in the rundown building. Smith is also a member of Distributive Education Clubs of America at Hickman, a student marketing organization.
Smith’s blue eyes light up and a permanent smile graces his face as he talks about his busy life. It makes it easy to think Whitney’s description of him as a Renaissance man might not be far off the mark.
“He’s a pleasure," Whitney said. "He’s fun to be around and has a great attitude of life.”