Curtis Terry has some fond memories of his summers spent on the fields in the Georgia heat.
One memory has stuck with him – a tournament just for the community baseball players that was put together by a few of the parents. There were no umpires, no champions, and no pressure to impress.
“Everybody knew each (other), everybody knew the teams. We were just out there having fun,” Terry said. “We just had a blast.”
It was the first time in a while the first baseman got the chance to play against the boys in his community without seeing a scout watching from the stands. It was a tournament that didn’t matter to the big leagues, only to the boys who grew up playing against each other on the fields in the northern counties of Georgia.
Among the players that weekend were Chad Smith and Alex Speas, who grew up not too far from Terry’s hometown. Terry was already familiar with the two, having played against them in front of the same crowds throughout high school.
Now in a Spokane Indians uniform, Terry found himself sitting in the same dugout this season as his once home-state opponents, who only knew each other by name.
It didn’t take long for their Georgia roots to finally bring the trio together as friends. Speas said the friendship was inevitable.
“I guess you can say it’s a Georgia boy thing,” Speas said.
The three Indians knew each other long before any of them were sought out by the Rangers. They grew up on the field together – particularly Smith and Terry, who lived just a few minutes from each other in Snellville, Georgia.
“I’ve been knowing Curtis for a while now, ever since we were little and he’s always been one of the better players (on the team) that he’s played on, and so have I,” Indians right fielder Smith said. “So for us to end up together … I’m not surprised.”
Smith and Terry were both picked by the Rangers in the 2015 MLB Draft. Smith, a fifth-round pick, played for the Spokane Indians for the entire 2016 season.
Terry, who was selected in the 13th round, played only nine games for the Indians last summer. He spent the majority of his season in Surprise, Arizona, playing for the Rangers’ rookie-level team in the Arizona League.
Smith and Terry attended rival high schools within Gwinnett County where the two faced each other regularly on the field. Smith, who occasionally would start on the mound for his South Gwinnett high school team in Snellville, remembers Terry as the slugger that was impossible to fool.
“I would get everybody else out and he would come up to the plate and he would just crush me,” Smith said. “I was just like, ‘What am I doing right now? I can’t get this guy out.’ And I was throwing curveballs and throwing changeups and he would just crush everything that I got.”
Speas, who lived a neighboring town about an hour outside of Snellville, didn’t get in on the action with the two Snellville players in high school, but Speas did get to see them on the field during travel ball season.
He was especially familiar with Smith during the summer, when the two found each other on the opposite sides of a well-known rivalry in Georgia’s baseball circle.
“He (Smith) played for VBSA and I played for the Atlanta Blue Jays, which are two teams that don’t really get along very well,” Speas said.
Speas said he never got the chance to throw some heat at either of his now teammates. Whenever he played against them, Speas said he was always taking a day off from the mound and playing elsewhere on the field.
The connection goes back even further than their teenage years. All three of them also played against each other on the football fields when they suited up for their local youth leagues.
Despite years of crossing paths, Speas, Smith and Terry never became close friends.
It took the Rangers organization and couple of MLB drafts to finally pull the three together.
Last year, Speas finally got the chance to really meet the Georgia standouts he always saw on the opposite side of the field.
After Speas was signed by the Rangers in the second round of the draft, his scout put him in contact with the Snellville players – two of only a handful of Georgia natives in the Rangers organization.
The connection gave the Peach State trio a sense comfort while bouncing around the farm system, especially in these first couple of years when their journey through the minor leagues can often be tiresome and unpredictable.
“Sometimes it can get kind of lonely,” Smith said. “If you have guys that you’ve known since you were a little kid, you kind of share something a little bit more special with them. Makes the ride a little bit more enjoyable.”
The three Indians said their southern roots will keep them tied to each other for the rest of their careers.
When they inevitably leave Spokane and see each other playing in different parts of the country and wearing different uniforms, they said they’ll still keep an eye out for each other.
“We’re all going to stay in touch,” Smith said. “I think we’ll be in contact with each other no matter what.”
Even if they end up in different organizations along the way. “I’ll always be rooting these guys on,” Smith said.
I guess you can say it’s a Georgia boy thing.
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