PRESS RELEASE – Tal Smith, one of Baseball’s most well known and respected executives has been named Special Advisor to Opening Day Partners (“ODP”). ODP is a leading owner/operator of minor league teams and is the parent company of the Sugar Land Skeeters, Houston’s new minor league baseball team. The Skeeters begin their inaugural season on Thursday, April 26 at sold-out Constellation Field in Sugar Land.
A veteran of 54 years in baseball, Tal Smith most recently served as President of Baseball Operations for the Houston Astros from November 22, 1994, through November 27, 2011 — completing his 35th season with the Astros over three separate terms.
“Tal Smith has been a friend and informal advisor for decades, and it is an honor and privilege to be able to work closely with Tal on a more formal basis,” said Peter Kirk, Chairman of ODP. “Tal will be a significant factor in assuring the success of the Sugar Land Skeeters and also in helping ODP and the other owners of the Atlantic League as we progress with the League’s recently announced national expansion.”
Smith will work with ODP on various areas of business and baseball operations. He will advise ODP on the Sugar Land Skeeters, as well as new locations for Atlantic League teams. He will also advise on relations between the Atlantic League and Major League Baseball.
“It is fantastic to have Tal and his experience and knowledge of baseball in our organization,” said Matt O’Brien, president of the Skeeters. “His understanding of Houston and of baseball will help the Skeeters become one of the premier minor league brands in the country.”
Tal Smith was one of the original employees of the Houston Colt .45s. He came to Houston in November 1960 when he was named assistant to the new National League franchise’s general manager, Gabe Paul. He later became farm director and held that post until April 1963 when he was named assistant to Judge Roy Hofheinz, the president of the Houston Sports Association. Smith served as the franchise’s liaison during the construction of the Astrodome and was involved in many of its innovations, including AstroTurf. Following completion of the Astrodome, Tal was named vice president and director of player personnel where he pioneered the implementation of the computerization of scouting reports and player data and directed the scouting and player development programs that from 1961 through 1973 produced the most players that reached the Major Leagues. He left Houston at the end of the 1973 season to become executive vice president of the New York Yankees. Tal returned to Houston as general manager in August 1975 and was subsequently named president of the club in September 1976. Smith left the Astros after the club won its first divisional championship in 1980, a year in which he was named Major League Executive of the Year, and formed his own consulting practice. He returned to the Astros again in November 1994 as president of baseball operations and served in that capacity for all six of the club’s subsequent playoff teams.
Since 1981, he has also been owner and operator of Houston-based Tal Smith Enterprises, a firm which has provided consulting services to 26 of the 30 Major League clubs. The most recognized functions have been in the preparation and presentation of salary arbitration cases (where Tal’s firm has handled more than 900 filings and tried more than 150 cases), operational reviews of scouting and player development programs, the financial appraisal of franchises and testimony as an expert witness in sports-related litigation. Tal also served as the sole arbitrator in two disputes involving Major League Baseball where the Commissioner was recused.
Smith was born in 1933 in Framingham, Mass. He attended Culver Military Academy (IN) and Duke University where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in business administration in 1955. Before entering Duke (at 16 years of age), Smith spent the summer as a staff announcer for the ABC radio affiliate in Durham, N.C. While at Duke, he broadcast Blue Devil basketball for stations in the region. During the summer recess in 1953, he worked as an assistant for the editorial staff at The Sporting News (at that time, the National Baseball Weekly) in St. Louis. Following graduation, he served as an officer in the United States Air Force for two years while continuing his radio work with various sports programs on a part-time basis. Upon completion of his military service, he worked as a news reporter for the Cape Cod (MA) Standard-Times before joining the Cincinnati Reds in December 1957 as an administrative assistant for scouting and minor league operations.
Baseball America recognized Smith for his career of achievements and innovations in December of 2005, when the publication honored him with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Winter Meetings in Dallas. He was inducted into the Culver Academies Athletic Hall of Fame on September 28, 1996, and the Texas Baseball Hall of Fame on Nov. 4, 1998. He was presented with the Fred Hartman Long and Meritorious Service Award by the Houston Chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America in 1993. He has served as Chairman of the Athletic Advisory Committee for the Culver Academies and as a member of the Advisory Board for Baseball America. He is a longtime member, and former officer, of SABR (Society for American Baseball Research) and recently served as First Vice President of the Association of Professional Ball Players of America, an organization which was founded in 1924 to provide financial assistance for those professional baseball players, coaches, umpires, scouts, and other baseball personnel who are in need.
Smith and his wife, Jonnie, make their home in Houston. They have two children, Valerie and Randy, and two grandsons, Quinn and Shane. Randy is a former general manager of the San Diego Padres (1993-95) and Detroit Tigers (1996-2001). Randy became the then-youngest general manager in Major League Baseball history when he was appointed to that position by the Padres in 1993 at age 29. Randy presently serves as the Vice President, Player Development & International Scouting for the Padres.
About Opening Day Partners: ODP has been a leader in Minor League Baseball since 1982. Under the leadership of chairman Peter Kirk, president Jon Danos, and Hall of Famer Brooks Robinson. ODP has owned its own teams as well as operated teams for others at all levels of Minor League Baseball. ODP has consulted with numerous major and minor league clubs and with communities worldwide seeking to obtain or improve minor league teams. Constellation Field in Sugar Land is ODP’s fifteenth minor league ballpark.