From Grounds Crew to the Major Leagues, Former St. Cloud Pitcher Debuts with the Padres


St. Cloud, MN – Former St. Cloud pitcher, Jake Smith, made his Major League debut Wednesday with the San Diego Padres.  Smith became the 161st former Northwoods League player to reach the Major League level.  He is the 22nd former St. Cloud player to reach that level, which is most of any Northwoods League market.

The path Smith took to his Major League debut included numerous stops along the way with Rox Field Manager, Augie Rodriguez.  Growing up in the Augusta, Georgia area, Smith pitched on homeschool and travel teams coached by Rodriguez starting as a 14-year-old.  In 2009, following his freshman year of junior college, Smith worked under Rodriguez on the grounds crew for the San Francisco Giants’ Low Single A affiliate Augusta Green Jackets. He returned to the grounds crew in 2010 to work with Rodriguez.

Smith saw the time working around Rodriguez as a chance to improve himself as a pitcher. “Jake worked hard, he was a perfectionist in a good way.” Rodriguez says, “Every day before the Green Jackets arrived we would work out for an hour before working on the field.” Following the summer of 2010, he transferred to Division 1 Campbell University to pitch his junior season.

In 2011, Rodriguez accepted a job as the Pitching Coach for St. Cloud.  Smith would again follow Rodriguez, this time to the Northwoods League. A week after arriving in St. Cloud, Smith was drafted in the 48th round by the same Giants organization that he worked closely with in Augusta, Georgia. He elected to play for St. Cloud the rest of the summer, throwing 32.2 innings, before signing with the Giants.

After playing in the Giants minor league system for nearly four and a half seasons, Smith was claimed off of waivers by the San Diego Padres in early July. Smith spent the first month in the Padres system rehabbing an injury before joining the organization’s Double A affiliate in San Antonio.  He had just arrived home following the minor league season on Tuesday when he got the call informing him that he was getting called up to San Diego.    

Looking back on the accomplishment of Smith making his Major League debut and the impact he had on his career Rodriguez said, “He put in the work and always wanted to learn. I gave him a few tips to help him out, but he put in the work and deserves the credit for getting where he is now.” In his Major League debut, Smith entered in the 8th inning and pitched one inning, allowing one run on two hits.

The Rox will return for the 2017 season in late May. Season tickets for the 2017 season are currently on sale.

The St. Cloud Rox are a member of the finest developmental league for elite college baseball players, the Northwoods League. The 23-year-old summer collegiate league is the largest organized summer collegiate baseball league in the world with 20 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, over 160 former Northwoods League players have advanced to Major League Baseball, including Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer (WAS) and MLB All-Stars Chris Sale (CWS), Jordan Zimmermann (DET), Curtis Granderson (NYM), Lucas Duda (NYM) and Ben Zobrist (CHC). All league games are viewable live via the Northwoods League portal. For more information, visit or download the new Northwoods League Mobile App on the Apple App Store or on Google Play and set the Rox as your favorite team.