Baseball coaches consider players who will do whatever it takes to help the team to be of the highest value. The true wisdom is recognizing when to seize on those opportunities. Count Damon Hardy, 2020 infielder out of Farmville Central High School in baseball rich Pitt County, NC, one of the wisest of players.
Repeatedly, during a recent interview he talked about the importance of being a “team player” while playing on a team. Hardy’s consistent refrain when asked about his frame of mind when considering different aspects of his game was “to do whatever I can.”
And that attitude along with his skills on the diamond has carried the senior to gain the opportunity to commit to play collegiately at North Carolina Wesleyan College, this past July. This is the same program his father, Axel Smith, played on as a member of the 1989 national championship team for the Division III Battling Bishiops.
Damon says he was greatly encouraged by the opportunity to follow that path since hearing all the stories from his dad, of his days in Rocky Mount, NC. Add to that how much he loved the campus, the coaches and how welcoming the team has been when he’s had the opportunity to interact with them.
Hardy has officially been a Dirtbag for the past three years, but his relationship with the organization has been much longer than that. As Axel Smith has been a baseball coach in the state for many years, his tenure coaching with the Dirtbags goes back to Damon’s childhold. And it made quite an impression on the player.
At 5’8” and 140 pounds, Hardy seems to personify the Dirtbags and according to general manager, Trey Daly, sets an example as he says, “If you want a guy that gets after it and represents the Dirtbag name, it’s Damon Hardy.”
Daly continues, “Damon takes after his father a lot in the passion, grit and never settle attitude.”
Damon says being around the Dirtbags so young both inspired and motivated him.
And it’s obvious because as a player he seems to be locked in no matter what he’s asked to do. Whether playing his ususal middle infield, or asked to pitch, or definitely at the plate hit; starting or coming off the bench – the effort and attitude is the same. He’s even been seen coaching first base for the Bags – and he was good at it. His perspective is the difference.
Says Hardy, “Whenever I step in between the gates (of the field) it’s like a switch – go time. Engaged at all times – they will get my all.”
He gives plenty of credit to the Dirtbags for his development. Most notably he says the chance to play with the best and against the highest competition allowed him to elevate his game. He says he feeds off other players to make plays.
In fact, it’s the bond he’s built with those Dirtbag teammates to help him build himself into the player he is today, saying, “Because I get to go out knowing I’m going to war with players who have the same mentality and drive.”
Helping other players is another attribute that is quick to be noticed when watching Hardy play. Having been around the game in the ways he’s been able to experience it he agrees that sometimes he sees things that may get past other players. Damon takes every opportunity to share his knowledge or instincts with teammates.
He wants people to know he “cares” – so when he sees those little things he’s going to act on it. Like stepping in from shortstop to calm a pitcher who may need to be settled, picking up a tendancy at the plate to allow he or his teammates the chance to succeed in hunting the fastball, or letting an underclassman know how he should go about his business in drills.
It’s all part of his game.
Which brings it to why he chose the Dirtbags.
On being a Dirtbag, he says, “When I’m on the diamond, I’m going to be the dirtiest.”
He wanted to be part of continuing the Dirtbag legacy. Earning it. Doing the hard work. Playing with intensity.
But it’s more than the stains on the uniform. It’s the effort, and the willingness to sacrifice.
For Damon Hardy it’s knowing when to get dirty. And figuring that out makes this young man wise beyond his years.