In 2011, the Brewers drafted Smith in the 13th round, out of Rickards High School in Tallahassee, Florida
"My father played football (and) my brother played football, and they understood what they had done to their bodies," Mallex recalled. "So, after that game, they told me they thought it was a bad idea for me to play football after high school.
"Other family members agreed. We're very close and we measure each other's opinions. In the end, the decision (to quit) was mind, but I had to take their throughts into consideration. I knew they were all coming from a good place."
Mallex began to focus on baseball and was good enough to get drafted by Milwaukee in 2011. Instead of turning pro, he spent a year at Santa Fe College in Gainesville, Florida. He was then drafted by the Padres and spent a couple of years in their organization before being traded to Atlanta, where his career path took a couple of crazy turns.
After the 2016 season, the braves traded Smith to seattle. Just 77 minutes later, the Mariners dealt him and two other plauers to Tampa for pitcher Drew Smyly. A year later, the M's re-acquired him from the Rays for catcher Mike Zunino. (Mike Gastineau - Mariners Magazine - August, 2019)
Where did the name Mallex come from?
"Everyone in my family has a first name starting with 'M'," Smith said
In 2013, Baseball America rated Smith as the 28th-best prospect in the Padres' organization.
In 2015, Mallex was the Braves 19th-best prospect in Baseball America's revised Top 20 prospect. But he moved all the way up to #7 in the winter before 2016 spring training.
In 2015, Smith was named the organization's Player of the Year when the Braves announced their Minor League Awards. He hit a cumulative .306/.373/.386 with 57 steals in 126 games combined at Double-A and Triple-A.
Mallex is a good teammate.
Mallex's play has alerted fans, the Rays, and their opponents that he's around. So much so that it's being called the "Mallex Effect."
Manager Kevin Cash smiled when asked about the "Mallex Effect."
"Well anytime like the other night he got on base five times, it's going to have an effect, because he's so fast," Cash said. "The other night, the guy was pretty quick to the plate, there was a good-throwing catcher back there and he still found a way to steal bases. That's an effect. You go back to the earlier days, with Carl Crawford and [Melvin Upton Jr.], he can just outrun some things. That's the effect he's had."
How fast is Smith? According to Statcast™ research—and consider that it's a small sample of results, Smith has two of the top five fastest times from home to first base this season. All of the top five came on bunts, and Jarrod Dyson ranks No. 1 at 3.5 seconds. Smith recorded a 3.66 and 3.67 so far in the 2017 season.
In 2016, Smith had 16 stolen bases in 72 games with the Braves. And he stole 230 bases in 399 Minor League games. Bunting is a big part of Smith's game, and he's a tireless worker in trying to perfect his craft. He's also made an impact in the field. According to Cash, Smith has cut off several balls that normally would have been doubles and held the runners to singles.
"He's been really good," Cash said. (Chastain - mlb.com - 4/10/17)
In the first two weeks since his 2017 callup, Mallex has made himself a fixture on Rays television broadcasts for his consistent hitting, his thrilling baserunning, and his visible dedication to self-improvement. When he returns to the dugout after his turn at the plate, cameras were eager to show Smith jotting notes down for himself in a personal journal.
The notes are extensive and detailed. Smith's game preparation is even more so. The notebook is an aspect of Smith's practice most easily observable by fans. The second-year big leaguer has been writing to himself on the bench since 2012, when his father recommended the practice as Smith began pro ball.
He's now on his fourth notebook, all packed with scouting reports individually tailored to what he saw and felt during his at-bats against specific pitchers. The personalized journals are used in combination with the video provided by the Rays in their scouting, and Smith leans on the notebooks when coming into a new series or facing a pitcher he's seen before.
Fans with a good view of the Rays' dugout could see the in-game adjustments Smith made using the notebook on June 21, 2017. A strikeout victim leading off the game, Smith blooped a single to left his next time up and roped an RBI single to right in the at-bat after that, all against Tim Adleman.
"Mallex goes up there his first at-bat, strikes out, it doesn't even faze him," manager Kevin Cash said. "He goes in his little notepad, remembers what the guy's trying to do to him, he puts it to use the rest of the game. He's had a very impressive approach here getting on base for us."
Smith is making his biggest developmental strides preparing behind the scenes. However, hitting coach Chad Mottola said, "His whole bunt routine is like nothing we've ever seen—including [field coordinator] Jimmy Hoff, who's been in the game for almost 50 years and teaching bunting."
Not only does Smith take more pitches to practice bunting than most, he'll break it up into specific and goal-oriented tasks. Bunts from a knee, bunts against lefthanders, bunts against breaking balls. Unlike most players, he wants to practice on the field so he can drop bunts precisely on the line, Mottola added. The routine bears resemblance to the workout of a basketball player working on his jumper.
"I'll bunt the ball in all directions but then I'll bunt the ball in a certain direction five times in a row," Smith said. "If I can't execute it five times in a row, then I won't move on to another direction. I've got to make sure I get them all down."
The purpose of the lengthy routine is to establish muscle memory, Smith said. He has a similar goal in mind when he steps into the box for a teammate's between-start bullpen session.
"Anybody that wants to throw a bullpen, I try to make sure I stand in there so I'll be able to see. You can't hit what you can't see," Smith said. "When I'm in there, I'm just working on my vision, trying to work on tracking the ball the whole length. When I would attack, and how I would attack that pitch, would I swing at that pitch. You know, just trying to play the game before it happens."
The repetition in bunting and eyeing pitches, along with the internalization that comes with writing down what happened while at bat, form the pillars of Smith's learning style. He's comfortable using that routine and for his diligence, he's been rewarded at the plate recently. (Mount - mlb.com - 6/23/17)
August 8, 2017: Mallex confessed during an interview on "Intentional Talk" that he is a Florida Gator fan even though he was raised in Tallahassee, the home of the Florida State Seminoles. He said it was tough being a Gator fan in Tallahassee.
Mallex in the 18th player to wear number 0. His oldest sister Loreal wore number 0 when she played basketball. However his favorite number in 13 because he has a fascination with Jason in the horror movie "Friday the 13th." He says he likes that number because as a player he wants to be the other teams worst nightmare. (Intentional Talk-August 8, 2017)
Mallex is the youngest of four children. Each member of the family is an athlete. Running track, playing basketball, softball and baseball. His brother Michael was a running back for the Arkansas Razorbacks. Mallex also played safety on his high school football team.
May 2018: Mallex tends to make things happen, one way or another, whenever he is on the field. He is greatly looking forward to sharing that stage with his maternal grandmother, Willie Mae Footman, who was announced as the Rays Honorary Bat Girl for the annual MLB-wide "Going to Bat Against Breast Cancer" initiative commemorated on Mother's Day.
"It means a lot,'' Smith said. "For me she is like the glue of our family.'
'Footman, 68, is more than eight years past her diagnosis of breast cancer. She has spent much of her life working with kids, retiring from posts with Leon County Schools, the Tallahassee Parks and Recreation Department and the Girl Scouts. She also has done extensive community service work. Because the Rays will be on the road on Mother's Day, she will be recognized at the May 27th game and receive pink MLB merchandise.
"For her to be honored in a way that's bigger than just in Tallahassee means a lot to me,'' he said. (Marc Topkin-Tampa Bay Times - May 10, 2018)
Sep 22, 2018: It's a "football" afternoon and Mallex Smith is thinking about a decision he made during his senior year in high school. While his teammates get ready for their afternoon game in Toronto, Smith is throwing a football with anyone who will join him.
"I am definitely the football guy on the team," Smith said. "I keep a football on me all the time." The Rays' 25-year-old right fielder didn't grow up as a baseball player, his first love was football. Baseball came around when I realized that I could really play baseball in like 11th grade," Smith said. "Then, by the time my 12th-grade year came around, that's when I kind of made the switch very reluctantly."
Smith played safety at James S. Rickards High School in Tallahassee, Fla. He was never a top recruit, but he insists he would have played in college had he not switched to baseball. It was a change Smith made when he began to realize the dangers associated with playing football.
"Just being able to have my knees and my head when I'm through with my career was worth missing out on the sport," Smith said. The decision didn't always sit well with Smith. After being selected in the fifth round of the 2012 draft, he flew through the Minors and made his Major League debut in 2016 at the age of 23 with the Braves. He went 6-for-44 to begin his young career and finished the season hitting .238 in 72 games.
"When I was going through my first struggles and everything was just so new, I just didn't know," Smith said. "You go through your first 3-for-45 and you start questioning did you make the right decision, but like all things, just stay true to it and continue to work hard and I feel like I'll reap the benefits." Smith has been a breakout star this year for the Rays. His batting average sits over .300 and his 35 stolen bases in 2018 rank third in the Majors. His success this year has confirmed to him that he made the right decision giving up on his football career.
He flashed his football prowess in the fifth inning of an 11-3 victory over the Blue Jays when he tracked down a hard-hit fly ball from Devon Travis and made a leaping grab before colliding hard with the lightly padded outfield wall in Toronto.
"I've had collisions, I've run into people, I've ran into walls and it doesn't bother me," Smith said. "That's what I like to do, so if I'm running into a wall, at least the wall isn't moving."
If the game doesn't go too late, Smith will likely be hustling back to his hotel and parking himself in front of the television to watch the Florida Gators game. He'll watch and think about how different things could be if he didn't opt to focus on baseball in 11th grade. (A Rose - MLB.com - Sep 22, 2018)
June 2012: Mallex signed with scout Willie Bosque of the Padres for a $375,000 bonus after they chose him in the 5th round, out of Santa Fe Junior College in Gainesville, Florida.
December 20, 2014: The Padres sent LHP Max Fried, INFs Jace Peterson and Dustin Peterson, OF Mallex Smith, and international bonus compensation to the Braves; acquiring Justin Upton and RHP Aaron Northcraft.
January 11, 2017: The Rays traded LHP Drew Smyly to the Mariners for SS Carlos Vargas, Smith, and LHP Ryan Yarbrough.