EAST GREENSBORO – There is a wide range of diversity on the North Carolina A&T baseball team. There is a wide range of likes and dislikes, preferences and non-preferences and similar and not too similar backgrounds.
What brings it all together is bats, balls and gloves. Two great examples of how well the diversity works within the N.C. A&T baseball program is seen in former players Dawnoven Smith and Adan Ordonez.
Smith credits their similarities and their differences for making them close friends and helping him earn his latest opportunity. Smith, who just completed his collegiate career with the Aggies in 2019, recently signed with the Utica Unicorns of the United Shores Professional Baseball League.
The USPBL is a four-team league independent league with its home office in Utica, Mich. All four teams play in Michigan. Ordonez signed with the Birmingham Bloomfield Beavers of the USPBL in May.
Ordonez then called his friend, Smith, who had just completed his second straight first-team All-Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference season for the Aggies and informed him about the league and all the benefits.
“He told me there might be some opportunities available,” Smith recalls. “He said there was some really good competition there and would make me better.”
Ordonez, who was a star catcher for the Aggies from 2015-18, talked to Smith on a Friday. The tryout was the following Sunday. Smith, who earned a reputation at N.C. A&T for his preparation before competing made it to Michigan, had a wonderful tryout and was invited to play for the Unicorns that day. Smith officially signed with the league on June 18.
Before officially signing, Smith played four games where he was 5-for-14 (.357) with two runs scored, a double and an RBI.
“It was more about getting prepared mentally,” said Smith about the tryout. “I was at the moment that I have been thinking about since I was young. At that point, it’s not all about swinging the bat or throwing the ball. It’s about knowing guys want that spot and how hard are you willing to work to get that spot.”
Ordonez has three extra-base hits and three RBI in 13 games played for the Beavers. Ordonez and Smith are two of the best players to ever come through the Aggies program.
During his Aggie career, Ordonez, who is of Latino descent, batted .304 with 44 doubles, 11 home runs, 137 RBI and posted a slugging percentage of .415 during his career. From 2016-19, Smith, who is African-American, compiled 19 home runs, 45 doubles, two triples and drove in 114 runs while batting .286.
While both men’s backgrounds are different, their path to collegiate greatness was the same.
“All the guys I played with are my brothers no matter who they are,” Smith said. “We check in with each other all the time. But there was something special about (Adan) because he just wanted to get after it all the time.
He really wanted to pursue playing professionally so he would spend countless hours in the batting cage. Honestly, I wanted the same things. We spent days and months talking about nothing but hitting. We grew close through just working hard on the game of baseball. We’re from different backgrounds but baseball brought us together.”
Smith is grateful that his friend informed him about the tryout. He is also grateful that he has a friendship built on each person’s work ethic and love for baseball.
Smith says his next steps are to work on his body getting in the best shape he can. There is also a chance he could play some infield after exclusively being an outfielder at N.C. A&T. He also wants to continue to build strong relationships.
“You never know who you’re going to meet in this game and what they can teach you or how you can help them,” said Smith. “Being aware of the other people around you can really help me be a better individual and a better player.”