Former Rookie Leaguer rejoins Jays Care team

Smith's involvement in program comes full circle in 2014 after participating as a child

Former Rookie Leaguer rejoins Jays Care team

The Blue Jays Baseball Academy Rookie League program aims to teach the fundamental skills of teamwork and cooperation, dedication and discipline, respect and responsibility, and self-confidence and independence.

Operating on a national scale, the program produces many inspiring success stories every season. Devonte Smith's renewed involvement with Jays Care is just one such example.

Smith was introduced to Jays Care Foundation at a young age while growing up in a Toronto Community Housing neighbourhood; his mother signed him up for the Blue Jays Baseball Academy Rookie League program, where he was introduced to the sport of baseball.

"It was a lot of fun, I was never bored," he said. "I had something to do every day. I was playing baseball, which was a new sport for me, and I found that I'm actually pretty good at it. I loved the baseball environment -- it's a really fun game."

Participating in Rookie League provided some of Smith's most cherished childhood memories.

"I miss those days when I look back on it," he said. "I was having the most fun. Being that close to a baseball player, that's every kid's dream.

"Friendship was very important [in Rookie League]. You had to be very close with a lot of people on your team. We were all having fun out there and seeing each other every day, and my friendships with a lot of those guys grew -- I'm still friends with a lot of them today. I still play on teams, so I have to know how to be a team member [and a team leader], which Rookie League helped a lot with."

Now in high school, Smith is already looking forward to a future that, in some capacity, will involve helping kids get active and play baseball -- just as Jays Care once did for him and his friends.

"I always wanted to be like [the Jays Care Rookie League volunteers]," he said. "I wanted to get out on that field and represent my camp and make them proud. I always wanted to be a part of Jays Care."

Just a few short weeks ago, fate intervened and provided Smith with an opportunity.

"I went online to try to find a job, and I saw Jays Care," he said. "I thought to myself, 'I was a former Jays Care member as a youth.' I'm always trying to give back -- volunteering and trying to get the kids to play baseball. So when I saw Jays Care, I clicked on it and I said, 'I'm going to really try to work with Jays Care this year ... I want to be part of this team, just like when I was younger.'"

Weeks later, Devonte had been hired as a 50/50 seller for the 2014 Blue Jays season.

"To be in Rogers Centre, to see the fans and meet and greet them -- that's me," Smith said. "I will be speaking to lots of fans and it will help me in future years. Maybe in the future, I will have to get on stage and talk to kids about getting involved in baseball, and I won't have any fear because this opportunity will help me."

"We at Jays Care couldn't be more thrilled to have Devonte on our team," said Danielle Bedasse, Jays Care Foundation Executive Director. "As a former Rookie Leaguer, it gives us a tremendous sense of pride to see the man Devonte has become. His passion for baseball, for Jays Care and for helping Toronto's youth truly personifies the importance of programs such as Rookie League, and we look forward to having Devonte as a Jays Care ambassador for years to come."

Don't miss your chance to meet Smith -- and purchase a 50/50 ticket in support of Jays Care Foundation -- when you attend Blue Jays games in the upcoming season. 50/50 Draws, presented by Ericsson, provide fans with a chance to win up to a $10,000 prize during regular games and $30,000 on jackpot days. In 2013, more than $485,000 was awarded to 50/50 Draw winners. 

Matt Warner is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.