A two-time national champion as a player at Troy, Mark Smartt begins his fourth season as the program’s head coach in 2018. Smartt, who was officially named the baseball head coach at Troy University on June 2, 2015, began his journey to the head coach position in the fall of 1985 as he arrived in Troy to begin his junior year in college.
Troy returned to the NCAA Regionals for the first time in five years with a 42-21 run in 2018. The Trojans kicked off the Regional with a bang, knocking off No. 18 Duke, 6-0, before falling to No. 8 Georgia and dropping the rematch with the Blue Devils.
To earn a spot in the NCAA tournament, Troy needed to make a run in the Sun Belt Tournament…and that’s what it did. The Trojans dominated three straight games (Texas State twice and Louisiana) by a combined score of 25-2 on its way to the championship game against top-seeded Coastal Carolina.
The 2018 team wrote its name all over the school record books and featured two All-Americans, the Sun Belt Player of the Year, five All-Sun Belt players, an NCAA Statistical Champion and a Rawlings Gold Glove Award winner. That Gold Glove winner, Brandon Lockridge, made more history when he was drafted in the fifth round of the MLB Draft - becoming the fifth Troy player to be taken in the first five rounds.
Smartt's second year at the helm took Troy to a 31-25 overall record and a third-place finish in the East Division of the Sun Belt Conference. The Trojans started hot once again, as they did not drop a series until the sixth weekend of the season. Troy defeated No. 5 Auburn in its highest-ranked win since the transition to Division I and swept the season series with Alabama and Auburn for the first time in school history.
In his first season as head coach, Smartt led the Trojans to a 32-26 record and a third-place finish in the league. To begin the year, Smartt helped propel the Trojans to a 7-0 start, and was the first head coach in Troy’s history to start off his first year 7-0 dating back to 1970.
Smartt was recruited to play for legendary head coach Chase Riddle as a second baseman by then assistant coach Mike Russell. No one at that time, including him, could envision he would eventually ascend to the head coach position he currently holds.
“I owe so much to both Coach Mike Russell and Coach Chase Riddle”, Smartt said. “They afforded me the opportunity to play at Troy, and when I chose to attend Troy, it easily one of the best decisions I have ever made. I played on two great teams, played for one of the greatest coaches in college baseball, and met my future wife, Deborah, who is a Troy graduate. Troy has been wonderful to me for many years now.”
Smartt played for Riddle on the 1986 and 1987 NCAA Division II National Championship teams that went a combined 82-18 and posted a perfect 22-0 postseason record. He was the second-leading hitter (.405) on the ’86 championship team, which is the sixth highest single-season average in school history. Smartt ended his career with a .379 batting average, the fourth-highest career average in school annals.
Smartt was named All-Gulf South Conference in 1986 and 1987 and earned second team all-region honors in 1987. He was also named to the College World Series All-Tournament Team in 1987 after hitting .333 while not committing an error in 24 chances. His playing career was punctuated by his induction into the Troy University Baseball Hall of Fame in 2002.
Smartt began his coaching career with Riddle and the Trojans as he was first a student assistant in 1988 and then a graduate assistant in 1989. Those teams combined to post a 64-33 record, win a Gulf South Conference title and play in the NCAA Division II Regionals.
“Coach Riddle allowed me to begin my coaching career as a young, unproven coach in 1988,” Smartt said. “I was very quiet and listened to everything he had to say both years. He knew more baseball than any man I have ever known, and I was very fortunate to be around him both as a player and a young coach.”
Smartt spent 11 seasons as a coach at the University of West Alabama, serving as the head coach from 1995-2000. He arrived in Livingston as the school’s first full-time assistant coach in 1990 under then head coach Mark Hogan. His recruiting efforts helped produce a 1992 Division II College World Series appearance after capturing Gulf South Conference and South Central Regional championships along the way. The Tigers captured a GSC West Division Championship in 1994, his last season as an assistant.
In 1995, Smartt was elevated to the head coaching position and compiled a 164-163 record in six seasons. During his tenure, his teams broke or tied 38 school records while producing two All-Americans, seven all-region and 10 All-GSC selections. Under his leadership, UWA also finished in the top five in national attendance in five of his six seasons, including setting a single-game home crowd record of 2,019 in his last season.
Smartt returned to his alma mater in July of 2002, accepting an assistant coaching position under then head coach Bobby Pierce.
“I am indebted to Coach Bobby Pierce for hiring me in 2002,” Smartt said. “It gave me the chance to come back to the school I love and the place that means so much to me and my wife. Being able to coach at my alma mater and wear the Troy uniform again is very special.”
During his 13 years as the assistant at Troy, the Trojans won four conference championships, appeared in four NCAA Regionals, had 17 players earn All-America honors and saw 30 players sign professional contracts.
Over 17 seasons as a player and assistant coach, Smartt has participated in 1,013 games in a Troy uniform, which is the most of any player or coach in school history. He has been involved in 598 wins, six conference championship teams and six NCAA postseason teams. Smartt either played with or coached 30 of the 51 All-American players the Trojans have produced.
“It is an honor and privilege to be the head coach at Troy baseball, and I will forever be grateful for this opportunity,” Smart said. “I would not be the head coach without the support of Bobby Pierce, who did a great job leading our program for 13 seasons. He put me in position to succeed, much like he did for his players throughout his career.
“When I first arrived here in 1985, I never imagined I could follow in the footsteps of coaches like Chase Riddle and Bobby Pierce. I will strive to represent them and every former player and coach with the proper respect this job requires. There is no place I would rather be than here in Troy.”
Smartt and his wife Deborah have a daughter, Taylor, who is an assistant coach of the Troy softball team and a Troy graduate, and a son, Chase, who is currently a member of the Troy baseball team.