Smith switches up off-season training

Australia captain turns his hand to baseball again in winter break - with impressive results

It's the middle of the Australian winter, and Steve Smith is in the nets, working up a sweat, tirelessly trying to perfect his swing. 

It sounds exactly like the place you would expect the Australian cricket captain to be ... except that's not English willow Smith is swining, nor is it 156g of red leather he's cracking back where it came from.

On a mid-year break, nearly 12 months on from taking batting tips from a Boston Red Sox all-star, Steve Smith has returned to the United States east coast to put those pointers into practice.

A renowned perfectionist, Smith was immediately critiquing his own swing after the friendly hit around in Boston, and judging by his latest social media post has clearly improved. 

Now in New York following a European vacation after Australia's rain-induced Champions Trophy early exit, a trip to watch the New York Yankees shows his interest in baseball hasn't waned.

An instagram video Smith posted from his session at an indoor batting cage showed him making clean connections batting right-handed, before he moved to the other side of home plate, and, after a mis-hit from the first pitch, cleanly struck the second while batting left-handed.


Batting practice in New York #switchhitter ⚾️

A post shared by Steve Smith (@steve_smith49) on

Last July, Smith stopped off in Boston to meet the Red Sox and second base star Dustin Pedroia. He had just captained Australia to a one-day tri-series win in the Caribbean, and in Boston was invited to throw out the ceremonial first pitch at a Major League Baseball match. 

 There he toured the famous Fenway Park facility and met with Boston's all-star second baseman Dustin Pedroia where he swapped the flat face of a cricket bat for the rounded slugger used in the diamond game.

Smith's natural flair and ability was quickly evident as he made good connection, sending balls deep into the Fenway outfield, but wasn't able to land a home run and clear the park's famous "Green Monster" – an 11.33m high wall in left field that has thwarted many would-be hitters.

"He had a good swing … it was pretty cool to watch," Pedroia said.

"He looked good, anytime you can come out and hit balls like that, without doing it (regularly) it's pretty impressive."

Smith launches one at Fenway Park batting practice // supplied
Smith launches one at Fenway Park batting practice // supplied

Smith, in typical Steve Smith style, was busy critiquing his technique and looking for ways to improve.

"It took me a little while to get into it, I was hitting the ball a bit more up, a little bit more like how a cricket bat should go," the Australia skipper said.

"But I think you've got to hit it a bit more 'down', to get the backspin on the ball to get some more distance.

"Unfortunately I couldn't get one over the 'Green Monster'."

Pedroia, with a game to play the same day, declined the opportunity for a skill swap and didn't try his hand at cricket, claiming he "did not want to embarrass myself". The Red Sox later that day lost to the Los Angeles Angels 21-2.

Before that match began, Smith was involved in the traditional pre-game activities, spray painting the home plate with a fresh coat of white paint, and later throwing out the first pitch.

Former skipper Michael Clarke also had a close relationship with baseball. His wife Kyly threw the first pitch at St Louis' Busch Stadium ahead of a match against the Chicago Cubs, with the then Australia captain catching at home plate when they visited the US in April 2014.

Smith was the first Australian cricket captain to complete the time-honoured tradition usually reserved for rock stars, celebrities, and US presidents.

Unlike most, however, Smith is a noted fieldsman and accurate thrower with a powerful arm. And instead of gently lobbing the ball in, Smith unleashed his arm cannon over the full 18.4m with a rocketing throw. A little high and a little wide - a baseball is a little bigger and a little heavier after all - and caught the unsuspecting female member of the Red Sox support staff acting as a catcher off guard.

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