Friday, December 08, 2023

Guest Column: Storybook career for Troy's Smith

by Jeff Ferderer
| March 12, 2009 12:00 AM

When the Grizzly baseball team recruited a Libby southpaw in the ’60s, an excited Tony Smith headed to Missoula for his college experience and to continue his baseball passions.

As a freshman starting pitcher, Tony found early success, but after a long road trip where the opponent hitters “shelled him like a batting practice pitcher,” his coach sent the young, inexperienced lefty to the bullpen to gain experience and to become a relief pitching specialist.

Tony, dismayed and ready to quit, called his father, hoping for support. What he got instead was a strong reprimand. His father told him to accept his role, work hard and do his best. Tony did what his father suggested. He became a relief pitcher and grew to admire the coach who put him “in the pen.” Tony also grew to value and love the job he was asked to perform.

Tony has been following his father’s advice ever since. After serving in Vietnam, Tony received his degree and came home, this time to Troy High School. He has embraced his role for 3 1/2 decades as history teacher, coach of various sports, director and organizer of many drama and music productions and champion firewood gatherer, to name a few.

And as his father suggested 4 1/2 decades ago, Tony has done his best and set standards of epic proportions.

 Mr. Smith has helped mold hundreds and hundreds of boys and girls into fine, young men and women, including my daughter. His leadership has been a model of high moral values to all of us – faculty, staff, students and community members – as he teaches his curriculum passionately, as he has coached his young men and women to play hard, to contribute to their role of being a good teammate at all times – win, lose, or draw.

Tony Smith has stood on high ground before the Libby and Troy communities and has never faltered. He has brought us joy through his teaching, directing, coaching and music. His melodic voice has been with us at wedding celebrations and has comforted us as we have mourned.

He has given us teams who have made us proud because they have represented Troy and Lincoln County as fine athletes and as outstanding ladies and gentlemen. He has brought community members together to sing! And sing we have in many different media under Tony’s direction.

Last week, Mr. Smith took his young men to play in the Western B Divisional Basketball Tournament. The Trojans’ season ended in a heartbreaker with Thompson Falls. It was a tough finish to a fine season. The game was Tony’s last as a coach.

After 30 years of dedicating himself to the role of “Coach Smith,” he has decided to focus more on other important roles. Maybe it wasn’t a storybook finish, but it has been a storybook career. Tony accepted whatever coaching role was asked of him without concern or ambition for himself.

Under his guidance, he has taught us that it is not whether we win or lose, it is how we carry ourselves in victory and defeat. He has taught us how to be dignified and respectful.

Mr. Smith has taught us how to be good citizens, good human beings. Tony wishes to pay more attention to his great passion, his grandchildren, and to his role of being a grandfather.

Now as “Grandpa” Smith ventures into this adventure, we can be thankful that he has given so much to us, has taught us so much. And we can be comforted and thankful that Tony took his father’s words to heart so many years ago.

(Jeff Ferderer is a former Troy High School teacher who coached basketball with Tony Smith. He is now a teacher in Everett, Wash., but currently on one-year sabbatical leave while working on a novel in Eureka).