Why he's interesting ... Smith, a former major league pitcher, spent 10 years in the minors before his Florida Marlins debut. With no prior political background, he won a four-way mayoral race in the town of about 800 residents and took over an administration that had suffered several lawsuits and equal-rights violations. "The change of culture is really hard in small-town politics," he says.
Culture clubs ... Smith's baseball travels — stints in Venezuela, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Mexico, South Korea, Taiwan and seven minor league systems — taught him Spanish and how to thrive in any culture.
How that translates at home ... "Bringing our people together." Smith says his cultural experiences have helped ease some of Woodmere's racial strife.
Minor issues ... Smith, a John Adams High School grad, signed with the Houston Astros as a free agent in 1991. Eight years and several teams later, he was a Triple-A all-star and pitcher of the year in Puerto Rico's winter league. "I was a journeyman. I had to play to get paid."
Spring fling ... In 1995, Smith and Michael Jordan, who had retired from basketball, were teammates during the White Sox spring training. "I was always like, •Jordan, I'm tellin' you, I would have dunked on you.' " But even at locker room horseplay, Jordan wanted to win. "Jordan was just so competitive. He could play pingpong, he could do it all."
Big fish ... Smith pitched his first big league game for the Marlins as a 30-year-old rookie. "Guys were like, •Why do you smile so much?' but it was the same energy I brought when I was in the minors."
Junior circuit ... While working an offseason job at a Cincinnati gas station, Smith got to know Reds great Ken Griffey Sr. and his wife, Birdie. When Smith made it to the majors a few years later, he struck out Ken Griffey Jr. in a 9-6 Marlins win. "His mother got a hold of [the game story], and she just said, •You let a car wash guy strike you out.' "