Baseball Head Coach Doug Smith has been coaching at his alma mater UC Riverside for over 25 years. Coach Smith graduated from UC Riverside in 1975 where in his senior year, led the Highlanders to their first-ever collegiate title. For his success on the field, Smith was named to the All-CCAA First Team the following year. He served as part-time assistant coach after getting his master’s degree in physical education from Cal Poly Pomona, and then returned to UCR in 1983. Smith has helped build the Highlanders into a solid baseball program, which has achieved 10 postseason appearances including one Division 2 National Championship, one Big West Conference Title and two NCAA Division 1 West Regional appearances.
With eight completed seasons under his belt as head coach, Smith has achieved an impressive overall record of 210-172 and a 84-73 record in the Big West conference. Smith’s greatest accomplishment has been UC Riverside’s first Big West Conference Baseball Championship in 2007. For leading his team to a championship and setting a UCR best conference record of 16-5, Smith was awarded the Big West Coach of the Year award for that year.
When asked about his success, Smith said, “Winning the Big West Championship was a big accomplishment for our program. It was very gratifying to win it. When we are successful the credit all goes to the players. They are the ones getting the job done. We as coaches feel as though we are good at what we do but the players win games.”
After 25 years as Riverside’s assistant and hitting coach Smith was appointed as the fourth head baseball coach in UC Riverside history in September 2004.
“The transition was not that difficult. I had been here a long time and knew our program and our university well. I also worked for a guy, Jack Smitheran, which gave me a lot of freedom that helped when I became the head coach” said Coach Smith.
Coach Smith’s success as a collegiate player, especially leading his team his senior year to regionals and being named to the all-conference first team, has provided invaluable experience to the coaching side of baseball for Coach Smith.
“It was rewarding being an all conference player but it was more rewarding being part of a team that was UCR’s first regional team. In terms of having playing experience to help with teaching it is invaluable. While it was a long time ago you can remember the feel of the game and can relate to how the players are feeling.” Coach Smith continued, “It was a long time ago. We all get better as we get older. I’m proud of what I accomplished as a player but that was long ago.”
The aspects of coaching are different for each individual and Coach Smith noted what he really enjoyed and cherished. “For me, the most important part is the ability to compete every day. Our game is difficult and has a large dose of failure. The ability to compete through those failures is critical. I enjoy the day to day relationship with our players and coaches. That time we get to spend together working for a common goal is irreplaceable.”
Being able to make a positive impact is something a coach always wants to achieve. Coach Smith also talked about the biggest achievement for him. “The Big West championship is certainly up there, but I think to be honest the biggest accomplishment is when guys come back after their playing days are done and say we had a positive impact on their life.”
Coach Smith has had three of his former players become professional baseball players in the major leagues. They are Anthony Claggett (Yankees, 2009), Dan Runzler (Giants. 2010) and Marc Rzepczynski (Cardinals, 2011). Notably, Rzepczynski won World Series rings over the past three major league seasons. Smith, overall, has had over 150 of his players signed to professional contracts.
Smith discussed his emotions and thoughts on how he has coached so many great and young athletes. “I’m very proud for our program to have had so many guys go out and be successful. It is a tribute to everyone in our program that works so hard. When you get to see someone like Runzler or Rzep do something special on such a big stage it is thrilling. Knowing how much they are enjoying it makes it even more enjoyable for us.”