A personnel move to note: Tal Smith, longtime member of the Houston Astros front office, has been named special advisor to Opening Day Partners (ODP), owners of several independent Atlantic League teams.
ODP’s newest team is the Sugar Land Skeeters, and Smith will be advising Opening Day Partners on that team as well as new locations for Atlantic League teams. The Skeeters begin their inaugural season on Thursday, April 26 at sold-out Constellation Field in Sugar Land, Texas.
A veteran of 54 years in baseball and an original employee of the Houston Colt .45s, Smith most recently served as president of baseball operations for the Astros from November 22, 1994, through November 27, 2011 — completing his 35th season with the Astros over three separate terms.
“Tal Smith has been a friend and informal advisor for decades, and it is an honor and privilege to be able to work closely with Tal on a more formal basis,” said Peter Kirk, ODP chairman. “Tal will be a significant factor in assuring the success of the Sugar Land Skeeters and also in helping ODP and the other owners of the Atlantic League as we progress with the League’s recently announced national expansion.”
Smith will work with ODP on various areas of business and baseball operations. Besides the Skeeters, he will also advise on relations between the Atlantic League and Major League Baseball.
“It is fantastic to have Tal and his experience and knowledge of baseball in our organization,” said Matt O’Brien, president of the Skeeters. “His understanding of Houston and of baseball will help the Skeeters become one of the premier minor league brands in the country.”
Smith was one of the original employees of the Houston Colt .45s. He came to Houston in November 1960 when he was named assistant to the new National League franchise’s general manager, Gabe Paul. He later became farm director and held that post until April 1963 when he was named assistant to Judge Roy Hofheinz, the president of the Houston Sports Association. Smith served as the franchise’s liaison during the construction of the Astrodome and was involved in many of its innovations, including AstroTurf.
Following completion of the Astrodome, Smith was named vice president and director of player personnel where he pioneered the implementation of the computerization of scouting reports and player data and directed the scouting and player development programs that from 1961 through 1973 produced the most players that reached the Major Leagues. He left Houston at the end of the 1973 season to become executive vice president of the New York Yankees. Smith returned to Houston as general manager in August 1975 and was subsequently named president of the club in September 1976. Smith left the Astros after the club won its first divisional championship in 1980, a year in which he was named Major League Executive of the Year, and formed his own consulting practice. He returned to the Astros again in November 1994 as president of baseball operations and served in that capacity for all six of the club’s subsequent playoff teams.
Since 1981, he has also been owner and operator of Houston-based Tal Smith Enterprises, a firm which has provided consulting services to 26 of the 30 Major League clubs. The most recognized functions have been in the preparation and presentation of salary arbitration cases (where Tal’s firm has handled more than 900 filings and tried more than 150 cases), operational reviews of scouting and player development programs, the financial appraisal of franchises and testimony as an expert witness in sports-related litigation. Smith also served as the sole arbitrator in two disputes involving Major League Baseball where the commissioner was recused.
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