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Floating on cloud nine

Smith goes through tough times to get drafted in ninth round of MLB draft

Posted: June 12, 2008 2:05 a.m.
Updated: August 13, 2008 5:03 a.m.

In their family home in Saugus, Shawn Smith looks over a scrapbook of his baseball career his mother, Lisa Smith, made for him. Battling with breast cancer more than once, Lisa said working on the book was a form of therapy.

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Shawn Smith was born 9-9-1990.

So when he was taken first pick in the ninth round of the 2008 MLB draft by the Tampa Bay Rays, his mother attributed it to fate.

"All of our family and friends were like, Oh my gosh, there's something about nine," said Shawn's mother Lisa Smith. "We were so thrilled because all of the hard work we put in as a family and what he's had to do finally paid off to where he made his dream come true."

Prior to his senior season and the buzz of draft day, Shawn faced a tougher challenge in his life.

In March of 2006 his mother Lisa was diagnosed with breast cancer.

After a series of tests and surgery, Lisa underwent chemotherapy.

But the struggle wasn't over yet.

She had a recurrence in May of 2007 and once again underwent the rigors of radiation treatment.

Shawn said he used the news of his mother's illness as a motivation to play hard for her.

He said that he was able to block out thoughts of his mother's illness on the baseball field and he was able to seek refuge in the sport he is so passionate about.

"Keeping him busy in sports really helped," Lisa said. "That really made an impact on him and then I could rest knowing that he wasn't just sitting around thinking about me."

Through it all, Lisa said that her motivation for a full recovery was seeing her child live out his dreams.

"The long term goal for me to get better was to see him play major league baseball," Lisa said. "I had to get better, he and my daughter are my future."

Today, Lisa is in remission and said that her outlook is positive.

"I feel really well. I'm excited for him and everything is falling into place." she said.

The recent Saugus graduate was the Centurions pitching staff ace until he became ineligible in the latter part of the 2008 season.

"It was frustrating and it was my senior year and I was looking forward to playing." he said.

Although he didn't compete with teammates this season, his work off the field didn't stop.

With the help of Steve McAfee, of Line Drive, Shawn continued to throw bullpen sessions on the weekends.

Shawn committed to Cal State Northridge last fall, but always had the ambition to play ball at the professional level after high school.

"I just wanted to go out there and start my career as a professional baseball player."

Despite his ineligibility, Shawn was confounded that Major League scouts were still interested in him.

"I was surprised when I had scouts still calling me, they wanted me to throw bullpens in front of them," he said. "They called me the night before the draft and said that they hoped the next phone call is going to be when they're drafting me."

And on Friday, Shawn got the phone call he was waiting for.

Now Shawn looks ahead to his professional career.

He will officially sign with the Tampa Bay Rays today and departs for the sunshine state Monday for mini camp with the team.

"It's the best decision for him to get going in his career," said Saugus head coach John Maggiora. "He has a ton of ability and is gifted with a great throwing arm."

The 6-foot south paw said he is most looking forward to working his way up the minor leagues.

And for Lisa, the manifesting of her child's dream is a long time coming.

"The reality is that it's happening for him now," Lisa said.

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