MISSION — For Sharyland Pioneer coach Casey Smith, success starts with a vision.
One must see themselves succeeding before it happens — doing everything necessary in preparation, executing each play on the field, and once the final out is recorded, enjoying every second celebrating a hard-earned victory alongside teammates and coaches.
Smith’s vision of the Diamondbacks reaching new heights began two summers ago when he took over a program that had yet to prove anything. He knew with a change in culture, Pioneer could turn things around and build a winning tradition.
Two years later, Smith and the Diamondbacks have done precisely that as Sharyland Pioneer went six rounds deep to reach the 2019 UIL 5A State Baseball Tournament, the first team from the Rio Grande Valley to do so in 12 years.
Whether dog piling on top of each other after playoff series clinching-wins or stepping onto the field Dell Diamond in Round Rock, the location of the state tournament, Smith and the Diamondbacks had already visualized it.
“The mental game within baseball is so vast, it’s unbelievable. One of the things we do, is we actually visualize where we want to go and where we want to get to; we actually did visualization exercises and things like that,” Smith said. “It is definitely something that we talk about, but also something that we practice, because I’m a big believer that if you visualize it, you go through it in your head, you’ve already been there once. The more times you’ve been there, the more comfortable you’re going to be when you actually get there.”
For his work leading the Sharyland Pioneer program to new heights, Smith is The Monitor’s All-Area Baseball Coach of the Year.
Smith and the Diamondbacks put together a 37-9 overall record and finished the season ranked as the No. 4 team in 5A by Texas High School Baseball. On its way to the state tournament, Pioneer had to get through No. 6 (Sharyland High), No. 8 (Boerne-Champion), No. 12 (Corpus Christi Veterans), and No. 19 (Rio Grande City), before eventually losing to No. 2 Georgetown in the state semifinals. The Diamondbacks also put on a show in front of more than 10,000 local baseball fans over two games at UTRGV Baseball Stadium as they clashed with rival Sharyland High in the Region IV championship series.
More than one month removed from one of the greatest playoff runs in recent RGV sports history, Smith has had the opportunity to look back on the things accomplished with a talented group.
“We understood the magnitude of what we were doing and what we were carrying,” Smith said. “Unfortunately, we couldn’t get those last two games, but in looking back on it and reflecting on how special this year was and what it took to get there, hopefully opening those doors for more Valley teams in the future — it was definitely significant.”
Smith, along with assistant coaches Shawn Moes, Eddie Galindo and Austin Bickerton, helped establish discipline, accountability and hard work inside the Pioneer locker room, which upperclassmen like Jacob Rosales, Johnny Lugo and Pedro Tovias bought into.
“One of the things that we, as a coaching staff, tried to change was our culture, how we did things, the way went about our business and just understanding that you’re going to get what you put into it,” he said. “You’ve seen the signs in the locker room that say you reap what you sow, it’s something we believe wholeheartedly in and it’s ingrained in our culture here.”
Years from now, Smith will remember the journey, all the ups, downs and dog piles.
“I was probably a little bruised up on Sundays, but that’s part of the fun. You can say, ‘Aw man, you guys are older,’ to me that’s the neat part. You’ve worked so hard with a group of guys, the celebration is just a part of that, kind of like a manifestation of, ‘Hey, we did something together,’” he said.
“When we look back on this whole thing 10, 20 years from now, that’s what we’re going to remember. You’re not going to remember who got the hit. What you’re going to remember is that you did it together, and that’s why those dog piles are a lot of fun, because it is a manifestation of, ‘Hey, guys, we did it together and it was a lot of fun.”