Christian Smith could have joined a summer collegiate baseball team in Florida or Massachusetts.

But his third option sounded better.

The Vanderbilt signee decided to play for the Full Count Rhythm, a Hendersonville-based team in its inaugural Ohio Valley League season.

Smith, who graduated from Atlanta’s Grady High School this year, liked the idea of an early arrival to Nashville.

“I thought I could come here, be close to campus already and get acclimated to the area,” Smith said. “I like the city, and I’ve been to the campus a couple times to walk around.”

Smith’s plan has worked out so far.

Through 35 games with the Rhythm, the center fielder is hitting .254 with five home runs and 23 RBIs. He has also scored 30 runs and stolen seven bases.

Smith is one of five incoming college freshmen on the Rhythm roster, making him one of the youngest players on the team. Perfect Game ranked him as the No. 52 outfielder among 2021 high school graduates.

“It’s been really good for Christian to come out of high school and see this kind of pitching,” Rhythm coach Kenny Thomas said. “He’s been through some ups and downs and some learning experiences, but he’s going to be a good player. I see a big difference in him now from when (he arrived) on Memorial Day.”

Late June brought a rough stretch where Smith batted just 1-for-22 over six games. After Thomas helped him make a small adjustment to his swing, Smith immediately hammered a three-run homer in a 14-1 win over the Fulton Railroaders on July 2.

The 6-foot-2, 185-pounder holds a .314 average with three home runs and 14 RBIs this month.

“It’s baseball – it happens,” Smith said. “You sometimes struggle, but you’ll get hot eventually. Right now, I’m in a pretty good spot.”

Smith chose Vanderbilt – the 2021 NCAA College World Series runner-up – for baseball reasons, but that wasn’t his only motivation. He plans to study human and organizational development or sociology along with a business minor.

“In my household, we’re pretty academically inclined,” he said. “That was one of the factors that came into it. (Vanderbilt) had everything that can help me succeed outside of baseball as well.”

The Commodores are set to return most of their starting position players next spring. Smith is still hoping to earn his way onto the field in some capacity as a freshman.

Doing so would help Smith work toward his pro aspirations. He will be eligible for the MLB Draft again in 2024.

“That’s been the dream since I was three years old,” Smith said. “Improving upon my weaknesses and continuing to build on my strengths will be the biggest factors in me getting there.”

Thomas thinks Smith is capable, especially if he continues to make strides like he has this summer.

“His arm has got to improve, which will come with time,” Thomas said. “He’s going to see good pitching every night (at Vanderbilt). There are certain pitches that get him now that he has to learn to foul off or hit. But that all comes with growing and learning.”

Russell Vannozzi is the sports editor for Main Street Preps and Main Street Nashville. Vannozzi, a 2019 Lipscomb University graduate, was previously the sports editor for the Robertson County Connection. He has won multiple TPA and TSWA awards.

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