PORT ST. LUCIE — Dominic Smith’s worst day this offseason occurred Jan. 26, when he heard the news his childhood hero was dead in a helicopter crash.
Growing up in Los Angeles and loving basketball almost as much as baseball, Smith couldn’t help but idolize Kobe Bryant, who became so much more to the city than just a gifted athlete and Lakers icon.
“He did so much for the community, he started an academy, it sucks,” Smith said before a recent spring training workout with the Mets.
Smith never got the opportunity to meet Bryant. Their closest encounter occurred in August 2017, when Smith was promoted to the Mets for the first time. Among the well-wishers was Bryant, who made a video that was sent to Smith. And after Bryant, his daughter, and seven other people were killed in the helicopter crash in Southern California last month, Smith posted the video on his Instagram page.
“Kobe told me ‘congratulations’ and it was kind of epic stuff,” Smith said. “That meant a lot, and it sucks that I didn’t get to sit down and talk to him. It sucks the way everything happened, because he was such a great person.