NORFOLK, Va. - Old Dominion University's Brett Smith is a pitcher and a teacher.
"He's selfless," admitted ODU head baseball coach Chris Finwood when asked about Smith. "He's a giver who has served so many people in this program. If young guys aren't listening to him and watching him, they're missing the boat."
"We have some of the freshmen living with us," Smith explained. "So I've taken them under my wing - teaching them how to cook, showing them how to live - things like that."
Smith has knowledge to share because he's picked up plenty during his days at ODU. His many, many days at ODU.
"I'm blessed to be back out here and give it a sixth year go around," Smith told News 3 Sports Director Adam Winkler this week.
The Grassfield High School product from Chesapeake first pitched for the Monarchs back in 2016. Since then, Smith has endured four "Tommy John" surgeries on his pitching elbow.
"It's a medical marvel, but more than that it's a human nature marvel," Finwood said of Smith's journey. "I think 99 percent of the people in his shoes would've given it up already, and he just was never willing to do that."
"I had a lot of people tell me I should just hang it up," Smith admitted. "That fueled me a little bit."
And good thing he had plenty of fuel, because last year Smith's road to a comeback took an unexpected turn when the college baseball campaign was canceled due to COVID-19. But this weekend, as ODU hosts Norfolk State in its season opening series, armed with an extra year of eligibility - the 24 year-old Smith begins his sixth year with the Monarchs. As he starts year number six, he finishes a Masters of Science degree in biomedical engineering - a perfect strike for this medical marvel.
"The injuries led me to go down a path to where I can look at biomechanics and how pitchers move, and fuse my passion for engineering with baseball," Smith explained. "Having an unfortunate event happen, you can either choose to go one of two directions: you can pout about it or have it help you get better as a person."
Coach Finwood was right: everyone in ODU's program can, indeed, learn from Brett Smith's experience - even Brett Smith himself.