Brooklyn Cyclones’ D’Andre Smith: Breakout Bound With Rehab in Rearview

Posted By NYC Newswire

After an injury-plagued start to 2023, Smith is healthy and excited for what 2024 will bring

by Justin Rocke for Brooklyn Cyclones

At the start of his first full professional season in 2023, D’Andre Smith’s plans went awry.

After helping Single-A St. Lucie win a Florida State League championship after being drafted, the 2022 fifth-round selection missed the first two months of the season with a nagging back injury. However, Smith feels much different physically with the 2024 season on the horizon.

“Body is in a great spot, I feel pretty much at 100% every day,” said Smith about how he feels during Spring Training. “I’m stepping out on the field and [my] legs feel good…my back was a big problem for me last year, but that feels really good.”

Following his injury-shortened season on Coney Island, Smith went out west to represent the New York Mets in the prestigious Arizona Fall League. After a slow start, the former USC Trojan posted a .323 batting average (10-31) with four extra-base hits, a home run, five RBI, and a .860 OPS over his final nine games for the Glendale Desert Dogs.

“You look up in the crowd and there’s probably 40-50 people there, but you know, you’ve got all these top prospects, the talent’s really good, so the pressure is taken off your back,” said Smith about playing in the post-season circuit. “I think for me, it was not getting consumed with results and, I think, that’s really helped me grow into how I’ve been going about things during camp.”

After relieving himself of internal pressures and concentrating on slowing down his internal clock, the Diamond Bar, Calif. resident believes he has discovered a way to perform at his best.

“I was just kind of exhausted and it just slipped my mind, like, me being overly consumed by results to where I was like, ‘You know, I’m exhausted, I’m tired, I’m just going to give it what I have the rest of these three-four weeks,” explained Smith about his mindset. “The more I stopped putting that pressure on myself, the better I played.”

One of the other highlights of Smith’s burgeoning career has been the opportunity to play with one of his college teammates. D’Andre joined an organization with familiar faces, including fellow University of Southern California alum and outfielder Rhylan Thomas.

“I didn’t really think it was a possibility,” said Smith about possibly playing with Thomas. “It’s been really cool from day one, we were there for each other. Being drafted by the Mets was pretty cool because I didn’t go into an org where I didn’t know anyone.”

“I knew Kevin [Kendall] very well from both growing up in SoCal and we played on the Area Code team together,” continued Smith. “Knew Rhylan [Thomas]. I knew Jacob [Reimer]. I went to the [MLB Draft] combine with Chase [Estep]. There were a lot of guys who were in that draft class, where at some point or another, we had come across each other.

Despite the literal bumps and bruises, the memorable moments for the 22-year-old in 2023 were bountiful. When looking back on his time with the Cyclones in Coney Island, what stood out the most was his effort to give back to the Brooklyn community.

“I know it’s a long season, but you know, to take an hour or so out of your day to make a kid’s day, isn’t too bad,” recalled Smith about working the Cyclones’ youth baseball camps. “You don’t know if it’s that kid’s first time and last time ever seeing you play…You just want to be appreciative that you’re in the spot you’re in and can give back.”

Giving back to the Brooklyn community wasn’t the only highlight of D’Andre’s summer. The infielder relished the opportunity to live across the country for the first time, even if the fast-paced nature of New York City took some time to get used to.

“It was really fast for me, and it seemed just like the movies the first time [I was] in New York…you know, just a lot going on at once,” exclaimed Smith with a chuckle. “I really loved getting into the city during off days. I loved Brooklyn and Coney Island; we would tend to walk around there a lot after games, just walk around that community and get outside…it’s a pretty exciting place.”

Experiencing the Coney Island scenery off the field and the opportunity to play in a ballpark with picturesque sightlines and capacity crowds hanging on every pitch helped fuel his fire.

“It’s electric, that atmosphere is amazing,” said Smith about playing at Maimonides Park. “It could be tough to some guys to play there because there is a lot going on, but I think that’s what makes the place so special.”

“You look in right field and you see the water…left field, they’ve got the little concerts going on behind the wall, center field, now you see the amusement rides,” Smith continued. “There are some really hardcore Cyclone fans that, I don’t think, miss a game…you build relationships with those fans, but I think that the atmosphere was amazing.”

Fully healthy entering the 2024 season, Smith plans not only to keep it that way as he enters his second full professional campaign, but to enjoy every moment while doing it.

“I think a huge thing for me was just to have fun and you know, enjoy every moment and the experience of being a professional baseball player,” stated Smith. “I’m very blessed to be in this situation. I’m just looking forward to getting a full season this year…play every day and, you know, see what that’s like to go through a full season this year.”

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