Aberdeen High School students with military family ties often enter or leave the school during the standard four-year term.
The Smith family is not exempt and that time is coming soon as Dennis Smith, the father, who is a colonel in the United States Army, has orders to relocate to Fort Sill in Oklahoma.
The Smith boys, Sam, a junior, Jack, a freshman, and Owen, a 2015 graduate, have been a solid core in the Aberdeen athletic department for the past four years.
The move will come early next month and the family – the dad, Natalie, the mom, the boys and younger sister, Jennifer - no strangers to moving, will have to make adjustments again.
"I don't want to do it, but I'd rather do it early in my high school career then do it later so I can have a new start and I might get to do everything I want to do," Jack said. "I don't think it's going to be that bad, but I don't want to go. I just don't want to start all over again."
Sam has three years vested in Aberdeen and the move comes at a tough time with just a senior year left.
"It's going to be tough. I've kind of built relationships with all the coaches here, all the kids I'll be leaving. I feel like we started to like from as a group this year, even though we're losing a couple of guys that are important," Sam said of the baseball team ties. "I feel like with Jack and I still here, not that they're not going to be successful next year, I think we could have repeated what we did this year. It's going to be kind of tough to start over with a new group of guys. In baseball, playing together and getting to know each other is a huge advantage in the game."
Sam, a two-sport athlete at Aberdeen, also played football and plans to play in Oklahoma, where he and Jack will attend MacArthur High School. Home of the Highlanders, MacArthur is a 5A school very similar in size to Aberdeen.
"That's going to be harder than baseball, prove myself all over again," Sam said of playing football.
Jack, who also played JV football, is not sure about football in Oklahoma. "I don't know yet. This year kind of killed me," Jack said. "I don't know if I want to do it again. Think I just want to stay focused on baseball."
Owen, who was Aberdeen's male nominee for the Al Cesky Scholarship Fund last year, just finished his freshman year at Shepherd University.
Looking back at his time in Aberdeen, Owen said, "With sports, just the coaches. Through the four different sports I played, every single coach was different. Lindy [Aberdeen baseball coach Tim Lindecamp] taught me a whole bunch, he helped me get into college, so he's like my best friend there."
Owen, who red-shirted this baseball season, plans to be back at Shepherd this fall, where he will continue his study in sports marketing. "It kind of depends on next year, how much I play," Owen said on whether he will continue on at Shepherd, which is some 24 hours drive time away from Lawton.
Playing and living together
Over the past three years, two Smith boys have been part of the varsity baseball team.
"I think over the past two or three years, I've kind of showed a little bit of individuality. Me and Owen are a lot different. Leadership wise, we kind of have the same mentality, we're vocal, and we say what needs to be said. In terms of field, he caught and I play middle infield and third base, first base," Sam said. "He excelled at his position, I feel like I've excelled at mine, so being able to, not necessarily show people that we can do it all, but like we really don't base our skills off of each other. We're pretty individual in that."
Sam was the younger Smith for two years with Owen and this year, he was the older brother to Jack.
"I think Jack and I kind of attacked it the same way. Owen being a captain and me being a captain this year. It kind of had a you don't have to tell me what to do mentality," Sam said. "Last year, I kind of got myself together, that was my second year of playing with him (Owen). The first year we kind of struggled because we're brothers. We don't like listening to each other. We like to tell each other what to do, but not listen and that's kind of what me and Jack ran into this year. Baseball, it kind of brings out the best during games. We're a family on the field, family off the field, but in the game, we're in the battle, so we're staying together. There are not very many arguments, there's some, but that whole brother thing on the baseball field isn't any stronger than the friendships you make with the teammates. At home, you're brothers, but out on the field, you're brothers to everyone else."
Owen says of his playing time with Sam, "We had our own little competition and go home and talk at the dinner table. We were not only competing against other people, we were competing against each other to make each other better."
Jack played with Sam for one season, but he's still the youngest boy, period.
"I feel some pressure. Actually, I do better when I'm under pressure," Jack said. "They've always helped me out. I might not listen to them, but eventually I do it." Jack says he felt pressure early during the baseball season, but as the year went on, he felt relaxed.
Missing the hunting
"The hunting, just hunting," Jack said of what he will miss from living in Harford County. Sam had a stronger take.
"I've built some pretty strong relationships with my buddies, we have all the same interests and we kind of fit together pretty well," Sam said, referencing friends Billy Kilmon and Anthony Cuellar. "There's not very many Tim Lindecamps in the world that you can relax around. He puts a lot of faith in me as a captain and he puts a lot of belief me as well. That relaxes me a little bit."
Oklahoma seems to be a daily hot spot for tornadic activity. Does it concern Sam?
"I lived in Kansas previously, so we actually ran into a couple tornadoes down there. We ended up fine, so I'm not really worried about that," Sam said.
"I feel like it will be me, more worried about their safety," Owen said, noting that he will be in Oklahoma for a month before heading back to West Virginia. He figures to be "checking up on them with all the tornadoes down there," he said.
The last word
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"I have no doubt that Jack and I will be able to handle it, since it happened before," Sam said. "Little tougher this time being my senior year. Been here so long, developing the relationships, but we'll figure it out."