Luke Smith strikes an imposing figure from 60 feet, six inches away.
The 6-foot-4, 225-pound senior spent his breakout 2023 campaign with the Social Circle High School baseball team establishing himself as one of the premier pitchers in the state, as he helped lead the Redskins to a 25–10 record and a spot in the Elite Eight. Smith compiled an 8–1 record across 14 appearances and posted a miniscule 1.35 earned run average, with 87 strikeouts in 57 innings pitched. Opposing hitters batted just .152 against him. He enters his final season at Social Circle as the unquestioned ace, having already committed to Gordon State College in Barnesville.
Every time he goes to the mound, Smith does so knowing his biggest fan—older brother Hayden, 19—will be seated in the right rear passenger seat of his parents’ white 2017 Toyota Sienna, which rests in the parking space nearest Burks Field along the right field line. Hayden suffers from Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome, a severe form of medication-resistant epilepsy characterized by multiple seizure types and delayed or worsening cognitive development. The condition has done nothing to shake the unbreakable bond only siblings know.
“I’ve grown up with him my whole life. “He’s taught me a whole lot of stuff that only he could.Luke Smith
“I’ve grown up with him my whole life,” Luke said. “He’s taught me a whole lot of stuff that only he could. It’s taught me not to take anything for granted. I love him more than anything. He’s one of my best friends. He can’t really talk to me, but I talk to him. He’s always smiling, always happy. He loves making people laugh.”
Mental and physical struggles are synonymous with baseball, as anyone who has ever played the sport understands. Smith can draw on a unique source of motivation whenever the going gets tough. “A lot of times if I’m on the mound and I need to calm down or anything,” he said, “all I do is look up there at the car and know he’s watching.” Smith admits he allows his mind to wander on occasion to an alternate universe where Hayden, fully healthy and free of LGS, could suit up and take the field with him.
“It would have been awesome,” Smith said. “It would have been special, for sure. I did get to play with him when he played in the Miracle League. I was out there helping him a little bit. He loved it. He likes to act like he’s playing golf. We’ll drop a baseball on the ground, and he’ll get a baseball bat and swing at it off the ground.”
When Smith was in fifth grade, he nominated Hayden as “Relative of the Year” for a school assignment. In it he wrote, “He helps me to be patient with other people and not get upset very easily. He also helps me enjoy every moment and be grateful for everything. My brother helps me understand how all people are created differently.” Now 17 and approaching his high school graduation day, Smith has learned to make the most of his opportunities.
“It’s a special situation, but we enjoy it,” he said. “It’s made me think more about cherishing the time we do have together.”