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Everything is 'aces' for new Suns GM

September 22, 2006|by KAREN HANNA

As a boy, Will Smith grew up rooting for the New York Yankees.

In his 20s, he took a 65 percent pay cut to pursue professional ball, though he said his strong arm was not enough to get him on the diamond.

Instead, he began working in the front office of a minor league team.

Six seasons after leaving an engineering career, Smith is set to succeed Kurt Landes as general manager of the Hagerstown Suns.

On Thursday, the team announced Landes has taken a new job. Smith, who joined the Suns in 2003, will begin his seventh season in baseball this spring.

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"There are 120 markets that are full-season, minor league baseball, so now, I'm at least one out of 120, so it feels good," Smith said.

Everything is "aces," he said.

A day after the Suns announced they will be a Washington Nationals affiliate next season, Smith said he is excited about running the team. The affiliation with the Nationals will open up marketing opportunities for the Suns, and create a stronger "community sense" for fans of the teams, he said.

Smith said he has learned a lot warming up under Landes, but he acknowledged he likely will need to work harder this offseason than any other.

"If I can increase attendance a little bit, if I can increase revenues a little bit, if I can keep costs under control, I would be ecstatic," he said.

Both Smith and Landes said he is up for the new challenge.

Fan Dan Spedden of Hagerstown agreed.

"When we heard Mr. Landes was leaving, we were keeping our fingers crossed that Mr. Smith would get the job," said Spedden, whose family holds season tickets.

An operation engineer, Smith said he was working for a company whose motto was "working to keep the lights on" when he had a revelation. He decided to go to professional baseball's winter meetings, and he said he has no regrets.

"When I went in to tell my boss - he's one of he biggest baseball fans I know - he was so proud and excited," Smith said.

As general manager, Smith said his No. 1 priority will be making sure everyone else is having fun.

"To be honest with you, I just don't want to let anyone down," Smith said. "I want to keep doing the same great job I think we've been doing."

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