Former Rockets Smith & McKenzie Prepare for Draft

Palm Beach Post Staff Writer


As Park Vista’s Austin Smith and Royal Palm Beach’s Triston McKenzie work out together in preparation for the 2015 Major League Baseball Draft, a small reminder sits above their shoulders.

If the pair of prized pro prospects ever thought of taking a few days off, they don’t have to look far for motivation.

“Hark work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard,” is printed in red letters on a wall at the Cressey Sports Performance training facility in Jupiter.

Since October, this is the space that Smith and McKenzie have used to build a friendship and their bodies for a possible jump to professional baseball with shoulder stabilization and lifting programs. Both are projected to be selected on the first day of the MLB Draft, which begins Monday.

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“It’s a great honor just to be considered for the draft,” said McKenzie, who is signed with Vanderbilt. “The fact that I might get drafted high with one of my close friends is a great experience.”

Baseball America editor-in-chief John Manuel would be “quite surprised” if Smith and McKenzie weren’t selected on the first day of the draft, which will cover the first 75 picks. Once they are drafted, they will have to decide whether to take a signing bonus and sign a professional contract or play college baseball.

“They’re going to go on and do great things regardless of what happens on Monday,” said Benjamin School baseball coach Brian Kaplan, who is the vice president and co-founder of Cressey Sports Performance in Florida. “But Monday is definitely the culmination of all the hard work they’ve put in over the last couple of years.”

Both dominated as seniors at their respective high schools this past season. Smith posted an 8-2 record and a 1.03 ERA to lead the Cobras to the state tournament for the second consecutive season, and McKenzie recorded a 9-5 record and a 0.62 ERA to lead the Wildcats to their first state tournament appearance since 2000.

But they go about their business very differently. As Kaplan has worked with Smith and McKenzie at the Cressey Sports Performance training facility, he has learned that Smith is the outgoing one and McKenzie is the reserved one.

“It’s different,” Kaplan said of Smith and McKenzie’s relationship. “They aren’t like best friends off the field because their personalities are so different. But their relationship on the field has probably been the most impressive. They seem to push each other to a different level competitively without wanting to see the other person fail.”

The two grew even closer after playing together on the Easton Rockets, a travel team, this past summer.

Despite their friendship, they are competitive with each other. They monitored each other’s pitching lines throughout the season just to check on how the other was doing.

“We always compete against each other, but it’s out of love,” said Smith, who is signed with Florida Atlantic. “He’s like my brother. We just want to watch each other succeed.”

Still, their differences off the field are obvious. The outgoing Smith is inviting media to his draft party and the soft-spoken McKenzie is restricting his draft party to family Monday.

But they share the same anxiety as they wait for their names to be called.

“The wait has been hard,” Smith said. “I’m just excited to see what’s going to happen.”

His friend agrees.

“The wait has been so long,” McKenzie said. “I’m just anxious for it to get here.”

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