Breaking the Mold: Being a Bear Both On and Off the Field

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UNC Bears Pitcher Dylan Smith pitching against LA Tech , courtesy of UNC Athletics.

Over the last several years, the baseball team at the University of Northern Colorado has not exactly been spectacular. In 2023 they finished ranked fifth out of seven teams in the Summit League.  Currently they’re ranked fifth out of the six teams that remain in the conference. One player who is trying to lead the Bears to a brighter future, along with leading himself in this direction, is sophomore Dylan Smith. 

The 6-foot-2, 240 pound pitcher is a criminal justice major from Bakersfield California and has primarily been a starter in his time in Greeley. At an early age Smith knew baseball was for him. In fact, at around the age of 10 or 11 he remembers first aspiring to play collegiate ball, and then on to professional baseball. He spoke about his parents taking him to the park as a little kid to play Wiffle ball with other kids and them taking him to Los Angeles Dodgers games growing up. This, along with a family history in the game, helped Smith realize his love for the game. 

Smith’s journey to the University of Northern Colorado was not as crystal clear as his dreams of continuing his baseball journey.  

“To be 100% honest, I had never heard of UNC before I began talking with the coaching staff during the recruiting process,” Smith said. “I quickly realized that this school seemed to be a perfect fit for me.” 

Smith says he was considering three other universities during his recruitment: the University of California Santa Clara, the University of California San Diego, and San Diego State University. All three of these schools are located in Smith’s home state, so what convinced him to come to Colorado to play college baseball? 

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“Coming from California, it is hard to top the beaches, but I love being out in nature here in Colorado. The short drive up to the national park was enough to sway me to come here,” he said. “The other schools on the table were quite big compared to here, and I was a bit afraid of being lost in the crowd.”

Smith has no worries being lost in the UNC crowd, with his relentless optimism and his ability to separate himself from his number 39 jersey.

“I find that it is imperative to separate myself from the sport I play,” he said with a look of seriousness.  He cracked a smile to say he finds, “happiness in knowing that my performance on the field does not define me as a person.” 

Smith later added that what he does in his free time, such as going to the aforementioned national parks, or going to concerts, helps him hit a “reset button”. 

“After living with Dylan for almost two years I would describe him as a unique, outgoing, energetic guy with a passion for the things he loves,” said Andrew Isdale, a sophomore pitcher and general business major. 

Isdale noted that after baseball, some of Smith’s passions include tattoos, punk rock, and history. 

When it comes to Smith’s optimism, just ask him about his team. Given one word to describe the culture of his team, he chose “grit”.  

According to Smith, head coach Mike Anderson often says that despite the Bears not having the best facilities, the best players or the best coaches, they will do everything they can to win. 

Smith doesn’t necessarily agree with this though. He gave credit to the team, talking about the talent of his teammates and the prior success of the coaches, but said due to circumstances like the Greeley weather and the facilities at UNC, the team has to work harder than most. 

“There’s a bit of charm to the fact that we work super hard with as little as we have,” he said.

Smith spoke about the aspect of baseball where the pitching and offense must complement each other. He noted that because the Bears pitching staff may not have the power of other staffs around the country, they have to have better command with their pitches. 

“Dylan’s ability to learn new skills and use his high-end baseball knowledge to adapt and thrive set him apart from a lot of the other guys I’ve been around in baseball,” Isdale said. 

Through an up and down season for the Bears this year, Smith leads the team in innings pitched, displaying the trust the team has in him. He has twice been named Summit League pitcher of the week this season, once sharing it with another player. These two selections match the two selections he had as a freshman. Smith has the ability to be one of the best pitchers in the league and has showcased it before, but we will see if he can put it all together over a complete season. 

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