Set to face off against the stiffest competition he's faced in his young baseball career, Dylan Smith isn't feeling nervous.
This weekend, Smith, a junior pitcher at Frontier High School, traveled to Scottsdale, Ariz. to take part in the Colorado Rockies Showcase Invitational, an invite-only, two-day showcase featuring hundreds of Division I and professional prospects from California, Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas and Canada.
"It's the best of the best," Smith said. "It's invitation-only for a reason."
And yet, Smith says he crossed the state line Friday night feeling a complete sense of calm. Thanks largely to a decision he came to 24 hours earlier, he entered the weekend knowing he belonged among the elite talent he was set to square off against.
With two years of high school still remaining, Smith has already found himself a collegiate home, verbally committing to pitch at the University of Northern Colorado on Thursday.
A self-described lover of the outdoors, Smith was immediately taken with the scenic Greeley, Colo. campus when he took a visit two weeks ago.
“It’s so pretty out there," he said. "You can pretty much go anywhere, just drive 20 minutes and you're in the mountains, outdoorsy areas. That’s kind of how I am, I like to be outdoors, go camping and stuff like that."
Prior to the visit, Smith had already formed a strong relationship with several members of the Bears' coaching staff, particularly pitching coach Dan Martony, and had seen enough to know that was where he wanted to be.
“After talking to the pitching coach, hearing how passionate he was about wanting me to go there, it was kind of a no-brainer," Smith said.
Smith, a power thrower who's already hit 91 miles-per-hour with his four-seam fastball, was able to carve out a role on a Frontier team with several established veteran arms in 2020.
With senior stars Kris Anglin and Tommy Hopfe holding down the top two starting spots, Smith served as the Titans' closer, going a perfect 4-for-4 in save opportunities for a team that was 8-1-1 before the season was halted by COVID-19.
“He loved to be the guy with the ball in his hand in the seventh inning with a one-run lead," Frontier coach Brandon Boren said of Smith, who struck out 11 in 10 1/3 innings of work in 2020. "He really relishes the chance to be the guy on the mound with the ball. You want to make sure you have a guy on the mound who’s a bulldog and he embraced that.
"His mentality, his drive, his work ethic, those are all things that are going to translate into success at the next level and beyond.”
Boren plans to utilize Smith's bulldog mentality in the starting rotation in 2021. With Anglin, Hopfe and three other seniors gone, he is in line to be the team's No. 1 starter next spring.
Smith welcomes the expectations that come with being atop the rotation. And with the pressure of having to impress college coaches off, he is fully confident he can thrive in that role.
“Now I have a little bit of a pressure lifted off of my shoulders, to be out and be seen," he said. "Now I have something in place and I can just go out there and try to do my best without really having any pressure at all. I can just compete and go for it really.”