Published On: November 18th, 2015

LOVES PARK, Ill. – Rockford’s new baseball team introduced its first manager on Wednesday, and it’s a face familiar both to the Northwoods League and in the region.

Manager Brian Smith

Former Northern Illinois University pitcher Brian Smith will manage Rockford, which begins play in the summer collegiate circuit this spring. It’s the first managerial job for the 29-year-old, who has five seasons of coaching experience in professional, college and summer-collegiate ball.


“When I interviewed Brian, I found him to be a high-energy guy,” said Chad Bauer, Rockford Baseball Properties, LLC general manager. “He’s been there and done that. Here you have a guy who’s played in our league, been an assistant coach in our league, and has played minor-league ball.”


Smith, who also played first base and right field, was a three-time captain at NIU, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in communication in 2009 and a master’s degree in sport management in 2011. Smith led the Huskies in wins as a freshman, but was twice a medical redshirt later in his college career. While a student-athlete, he served on three boards and committees, and was the president of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee in 2010.


In the summers, though, Smith stayed healthy and productive. With the Madison Mallards, Smith was a 2006 NWL All-Star, and in 2007 led the club in wins. In 2010, the Mallards named him to their All-Decade Team. He returned to Madison as a coach in 2009.


Bauer said Smith’s prior experience in the Northwoods League will benefit in player recruitment.


“It helps him greatly,” Bauer said. “Brian is a guy who understands what the mental and physical grind is on these players. That’s a big part of the challenge players face in this league.”


For most players, it will be their first experience with baseball as a day-in, day-out grind – the NWL plays 72 games in roughly 75 days.


Smith pitched professionally for two seasons, 2011-12, with the Joliet Slammers in the independent Frontier League. As a rookie, Smith was 1-1 with a 1.85 earned-run average as a setup man for the pennant-winning Slammers. In Joliet’s championship-winning victory, Smith earned the win in relief.


Following his playing career, Smith stayed in the FL and spent three years, 2013-15, with the Windy City ThunderBolts as their pitching coach.


Smith also had a successful turn as a pitching coach at the University of St. Francis in 2012. The Fighting Saints were 40-17 and a regional finalist that season. Smith also developed the program’s strength and conditioning program.


Rockford is a member of the finest developmental league for elite college baseball players, the Northwoods League, which will play its 23rd season of summer collegiate baseball in 2016. The Northwoods League is the largest organized baseball league in the world with 18 teams, drawing significantly more fans, in a friendly ballpark experience, than any league of its kind. A valuable training ground for coaches, umpires and front office staff, more than 140 Northwoods League players have advanced to Major League Baseball, including Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer (Washington Nationals) and MLB All-Stars Chris Sale (Chicago White Sox), Jordan Zimmermann (Nationals), Curtis Granderson (New York Mets), Lucas Duda (Mets) and Ben Zobrist (Kansas City Royals). All league games are viewable live via the Northwoods League Website, 

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