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Smith gives back to school, sport that gave to him

July 25, 2008|By LARRY YANOS

Former Hagerstown High School, North Hagerstown High School and University of Maryland baseball standout Bob 'Turtle' Smith believes in "giving back."

Smith annually contributes two $1,000 athletic scholarships to the Washington County Sports Hall of Fame, and this spring, he and his family fully funded a scholarship to the University of Maryland baseball program.

"Baseball was good to me. Without baseball, I wouldn't be where I am today," the Braddock Heights, Md., resident said. "I owe a lot to the sport. My four-year experience at the University of Maryland was one of the most rewarding periods of my life. There was academic learning, expansion of social relationships and playing my favorite sport."

Smith was a standout player for coach Jack Jackson at Maryland. He played three varsity seasons, was co-captain his senior year and won the Berger Cup for outstanding contributions to athletics through baseball.

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"I played third base in 1961, 1962 and 1963 and we had some good teams," Smith said. "One of my teammates was Tommy Brown. He was a great athlete. He was All-ACC, All-American and played one year of professional baseball with the Washington Senators before signing a professional football contract with the Green Bay Packers."

Smith said Jackson was a tremendous coach and a great influence on his life. He also praised the work of legendary Hagerstown youth coach Paul Brandenburg and high school mentors Bill Kercheval and John Coover.

"Brandy was just wonderful with kids," Smith said. "He really helped the youngsters. A great teacher, a great coach and a great human being. And Kercheval, the baseball coach my senior year, and Coover, the baseball coach my three years at Hagerstown High School, also helped me along the way."

Smith said Kercheval probably gave him the greatest piece of advice as a teenager.

"I had the opportunity to sign a small contract with the Philadelphia Phillies my senior year," Smith said. "To me it was a lot of money, but Kercheval talked me out of it. I'm so glad he did.

"He said, 'Get a college education first and then look at things after that.' He was certainly correct. To this day, I have never regretted the decision."

On April 19, the Smith family - Bob, wife Carol and sons Sean and Rob - provided the endowment, allowing the University of Maryland to create its first full baseball scholarship.

"I hope others will join in financially to aid the university's improving baseball program," Smith said. "If we could get a few more scholarship players, it would better our chances in the Atlantic Coast Conference. We need to get some of those athletes from going to other ACC schools."

Smith, who was born and raised in the Chewsville area, said it was a special day.

'What a great day for me and the family," Smith said. "It was 'Bob Smith Day' at Shipley Field and I was asked to throw out the first pitch of the game. It was very noteworthy: We rallied from a long way back to beat Georgia Tech, 14-13, and (Smithsburg graduate) Gerry Spessard hit a triple which broke the career school record held by Charlie 'King Kong' Keller."

Despite his involvement in the corporate world, Smith continues to follow the athletics programs at College Park and said baseball was responsible for his current position in life.

"Because of my business education, I've had success as a Vice President of two Fortune 500 companies and, for the past 20 years, I've been involved with commercial real state," Smith said. "I've told my family and friends many times over the years that without the baseball scholarship to attend the University of Maryland, I never would have had such success."

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