ANAHEIM — The stat line is ordinary. Chris Smith, the Oakland A’s right-hander, is 1-1 with a 4.64 ERA in 68 career big league appearances, and 0-1 with a 4.82 ERA in five games this year.
The story behind it is remarkable, which helps explain why Smith savors the big league life so.
“Top of the world, y’know?” he said Saturday afternoon in the visitors’ clubhouse at Angel Stadium. “It feels even better than when it first started … The second chance, if you will, has been awesome.”
Five years ago, released by Seattle after 10 seasons in professional ball and 50 big league relief appearances with the Red Sox and Brewers, Smith re-enrolled at UC Riverside, where he’d pitched for three seasons out of Hesperia High. He intended to finish the requirements for his degree and maybe get a job as a college pitching coach somewhere.
“Had we had a full-time job available I’d have hired him in a heartbeat,” then-UCR coach Doug Smith said.
“And it would have been the biggest disservice of all time, because he’s come back to the big leagues twice since.”
To condense a long story, a minor league buddy of Smith’s urged him to give it one more try in independent ball. So in 2013, at the age of 32, he went to Wichita in the American Association and pitched well. He started 2014 in the Atlantic League with the Sugar Land Skeeters and went 6-0 before signing with the Padres organization, and he spent the rest of 2014 and most of 2015 at Triple-A El Paso.
He started last season with the A’s Nashville Triple-A affiliate but was called up in August as a reliever, at age 35, made his debut with a scoreless ninth inning against the Cubs (including a…
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