Alex Smith will be fulfilling two people’s dreams when he throws out the first pitch at a Little League Baseball World Series game on Friday afternoon – his own and his grandfather’s.
That’s because Smith, a 12-year-old resident of the Little City and former member of the Falls Church Kiwanis Little League organization, won Oral Health America’s (OHA) National Spit Tobacco Education Program annual slogan contest.
“I’m really happy and astonished,” Alex Smith said. “I’m just going to be happy to go there because it reminds me of my grandpa because he used to coach baseball and loved the game.”
He’ll be attending the Little League Baseball World Series on Friday with his mother and father, Beth and Jim Smith, his sister Katie, his grandparents and a great uncle and aunt, where he’ll throw out the first pitch of the Mid-Atlantic–Southeast opening-round game at 3 p.m.
Elizabeth Smith said that her father, Alex’s grandfather, Robert Esh, passed away in February 2014, which makes Alex’s victory all the more sublime.
“My father passed away this past February and he was a huge baseball fan and he coached little league. And he always dreamt of going to the Little League World Series, but he never made it because his health got too bad,” Beth Smith said.
“So it’s kind of serendipitous maybe that this happened to Alex. I said ‘Maybe he had a hand in this, who knows’.”
Another of Smith’s rewards is that his slogan, “Play with grit. Strive to hit. But never spit!” will be used by OHA for their awareness campaign around the dangers associated with spit tobacco use.
The slogan will be prominently featured in OHA anti-spit tobacco ads during the Little League World Series and for another year until they crown a winner for the 2015 contest.
“Obviously he’s excited he gets to go to the Little League World Series,” Elizabeth Smith said.
“But the bigger picture is that maybe it will prevent someone from starting to use chew tobacco or encourage them to quit and maybe save a life.”
Every year, OHA partners with Little League Baseball and Softball for the slogan contest, which invites players between the ages 8 – 14 to create a compelling, 10-word phrase describing the dangers of spit tobacco use.
According to a press release from OHA about Smith’s achievement, the slogan will be used throughout the upcoming Little League Baseball World Series.
As the winner of the slogan contest, Smith will also receive a cash prize and OHA will donate $500 to Smith’s former little league program.
“It’s an awesome program, and I told him that the most important thing is that maybe you’ll convince someone not to start,” Beth Smith said.
“That’s the whole key — if you don’t start, then you don’t have to quit.”
According to Alex, his little league teammates are all very excited for him throw out the first pitch and he expects that they’ll tune in to watch him. He isn’t nervous about it, though.
“I was a pitcher,” he said. “So I think I’ll be okay.”