Hall of Fame Ozzie Smith talks baseball and golf at BMW Pro-Am

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GREER – There are several former Major League Baseball players on the field for this week’s BMW Charity Pro-Am, including David Wells, Roger Clemens, AJ Pierzynski, Ken Griffey Jr., Jose Alvarez and Ozzie Smith.

Smith, a longtime St. Louis Cardinals shortstop and Hall of Fame member, makes his third appearance in the popular Korn Ferry Tour event, which is the only one on the tour to feature a Pro-Am format that includes foursome pros, amateurs and celebrities.

Smith said he didn’t have to work hard to attract former baseball stars to join him in the upstate.

“I just think this place speaks for itself,” Smith said. “Word is spreading about what a great place and tournament it is.

“These guys love freebies, you know, so they say, ‘Come on,’ and we do. But most of the guys who play golf now play a lot of the same tournaments and when people ask me this is definitely one of my favorites.

It could also become exactly that for Wells, who racked up 239 wins pitching for nine teams in 21 seasons in the majors.

Baseball Hall of Fame member Ozzie Smith has competed in the BMW Charity Pro-Am presented by SYNNEX Corporation each of the last three times the tournament has been held.

“I was invited for the first time,” Wells said. “Last year we did (we were invited), but we had COVID. Being able to be a part of the BMW event is huge. I’m all about doing charity. I have my own charity event in San Diego – Perfect 33 Foundation – and we help our military, Navy SEALS. So if we can help, from the Navy SEALS to the kids, it’s a win-win situation. “

Smith, meanwhile, is an avid supporter of golf who is president of the St. Louis chapter of the PGA REACH initiative, which provides resources to middle and high school-aged youth in need to succeed in their education and education. their life skills. He said on Thursday he appreciated the opportunity to be able to play golf again with crowds in attendance.

“It’s just great to be among the people,” Smith said. “I think we all now realize how important it is to be able to mingle with people.”

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Smith also had a lot to say about the current state of baseball, which has seen batting averages drop and pitchers set a record pace for non-hitters in the first two months of the 2021 season. Major League are breaking a collective of .237 as there have been six no-hitting games, a shy one to tie today’s record for a season.

“You know the old baseball adage, ‘You swing, your average goes down; you go down, your average goes up, ”Smith said. “They’re going up, so the averages are going down.

“The strikes are lifted because that’s what they’re looking for – for the ball to fly over the fence – and therefore that’s what you get. They worry about pitch angles and all that.

“When we were playing we didn’t worry about those things. The main thing was to be able to get this third baseman in with less than two lead. I think that part of the game has changed. It’s not anymore. important. “

Smith, a 15-time All-Star with a .262 career batting average and 580 bases stolen, thinks fans today are being fooled by seeing relatively little action on the basespaths.

AJ Pierzynski, a former baseball catcher who retired from the Atlanta Braves in 2017, starts off at the BMW Charity Pro-Am Friday at Travelers Rest.

“I don’t know if people are this entertained,” Smith said. “I think in our day people were a lot more amused by the style of play we had because there was always a semblance of fundamentals being played. Right now it’s just kind of a free-for-all. Just get up there and hit as far as you can and it’s your entertainment.

Like many fans, Smith isn’t convinced with some of the rules implemented this season, including placing a runner on second base in extra innings and seven-inning games in doubles programs.

“It seems to me that the people who have never played the game are the ones who make the rules,” Smith said. “Baseball has its own pace, its own timing. There are little things you can do to speed it up – stop the guy from going back to the canoe four or five times. But it has its own pace and we keep trying to change it.

Instant replay didn’t help, Smith said.

“I think the instant recovery was one of those things where we thought it was going to help speed up, but because you’re now watching every close play at second base, it actually slowed him down,” said Smith. . “At first I thought it would be a good idea, especially in 1985 when we didn’t have an instant replay in Kansas City (in a controversial 2-1 loss to the Royals in Game 6 of the World Series).

“But I think the concept and idea was right in determining if it was right or wrong or safe or off, but now we’ve taken it to another level and that for me is slowing the game down.”

The BMW Charity Pro-Am presented by SYNNEX Corporation, which is played at Thornblade Club and The Cliffs Valley, will continue through Sunday, with all weekend rounds scheduled for Thornblade.



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