By Jake Davis

Oxford is home for Campbell Smithwick.

The Conway, South Carolina native moved to the Velvet Ditch in 2021 after committing to play baseball at Ole Miss, and immediately fell in love with the town and its people. 

“Just the community, the people here, the campus [at Ole Miss], the coaching staff — I can’t say enough good things about it,” Smithwick said. 

When Smithwick joined the Chargers two years ago he was a highly-touted catching prospect with eye-popping talent, but he was also just a 15-year-old kid adjusting to life in a new city nearly 700 miles away from where he grew up. 

That adjustment came quickly thanks to the support of his teammates and coaches at Oxford, who Smithwick credits with making him feel welcome from the jump. 

“I think at the beginning of the year last year I was still the new guy and then as we kind of moved further in the year I kind of took more of a leadership role along with the seniors from last year,” he said. “I’m super thankful for [head coach Cade] Hoggard and the amount of trust he put into me… him leading me and me leading his other guys has been really cool.” 

That leadership role came naturally to Smithwick, a born leader who fell in love with the sport at an early age thanks to the influence of his father Austin. 

The elder Smithwick, a talented catcher in his own right who played Division I baseball at Western Carolina, instilled that love for the sport in his son and taught him the intricacies of the catcher position. 

“I mean he’s been my coach forever really, I’ve never had a better coach,” the younger Smithwick said of his father. “I can’t say enough good things about everything he’s taught me and how much he’s meant to me as a dad, but also a coach. He’s my best friend, he’s done everything for me — just having that relationship with him has really played a big part in [my development] as a person and also as a baseball player.”

The talented backstop added that Hoggard has also been instrumental to his development as a leader, helping him hone his leadership skills and demonstrating alternative ways to control a locker room. 

“I never got to see Coach Hoggard as a player but I could tell that he was more of the quiet leader himself, so just seeing the way he coaches our team — that’s the way that I want to lead.”

Smithwick, who is one of the top catching prospects in the class of 2023 and will likely hear his name called somewhere in the middle rounds of the MLB Draft, said he has leaned on both Hoggard and his father for advice as he continues to get more and more national attention. 

He said the most important piece of advice they’ve given him is to simply ignore the chatter and focus on enjoying the moment as he finishes out his senior year of high school. 

“I just kind of stay focused on what’s happening in front of me and being where my feet are, just staying locked in to the season and trying to win as many games as possible,” Smithwick said. “All I am is someone else’s opinion in that regard so I just try to play as well as I can no matter what — and not for any specific person or to impress anybody, but just because I love the game and I want to play the best I can.” 

When he steps onto the Ole Miss campus this fall Campbell Smithwick will be not only one of the most talented freshmen on the diamond, but also one of the most polished and mature athletes in the entire school thanks to the hard work and dedication of several mentors who helped guide him to this point. 

And perhaps more importantly, he’ll be a local kid ready to make a mark on an historic program because for Smithwick, Oxford is home.