ST. LOUIS — Ozzie Smith, who during a decade in the major leagues has established himself as one of baseball's best-ever fielders, wants to be known also for his hitting.
"I think all of us would like to be known as the most well-rounded player we can be," the St. Louis Cardinals' perennial All-Star shortstop said. "I don't want to be noted as a one-dimensional player. I want to be as complete as I possibly can."
With that the target, Smith launched a conditioning program last winter to get the most out of his unimposing physique.
"I spent a week in New Orleans and worked two-a-days with (training expert) Mackey Shilstone," he said. "It was a program that incorporated both nutrition and weight training. I've always worked with weight training, but I've never (before) gotten involve with nutrition."
The payoff for a regimen introduced by Shilstone, who also prepared boxer Michael Spinks for a successful heavyweight title challenge, has been clear.
Through Labor Day, while heading into the season's final four weeks, Smith was batting .299 compared with his lifetime .247 average at the start of the year. His fielding, which has always been recognized as all but impeccable, was better than ever. He had only eight errors.
Smith said that in undertaking the conditioning program he was trying to minimize the fatigue that victimizes all players late in the season.
"When you get into a type of program like I did last winter, it's something that can prolong your career," he said. "It's allowed me to be a lot more consistent over the course of the (whole) season, and that's what you're looking for."
Smith, at 5-foot-10 and 160 pounds, will never become a home run hitter, but he has easily surpassed his previous career high of 30 doubles for one season.
"I did it for stamina and to be able to get more extra-base hits, as I've done," Smith said of his program. "I wanted to develop the ability to drive the ball. When you tell people that you're lifting weights or something, the first thing that comes to mind is hitting the long (home run) ball. I didn't do it for that."
Instead, Smith's consistency has kept him among the National League's toughest batters to strike out (28 times in 548 plate appearances) and most effective baserunners (92 runs, 35 stolen bases).
At the start of this past week, he was tied for seventh in runs, was seventh in base thefts and was tied for third in NL doubles with 33. His hit total (148) was also tied for seventh and, with a career-high 70 runs-batted-in to his credit through Monday, he was within range of St. Louis' club record of 82 RBI for a shortstop set in 1921 by Doc Lavan.
"I really didn't set any goals, because you really don't know what the limit is," said Smith, in his 10th major league season.
"Goals are great, but they set a lot of limitations, too," he said. "You let it shape itself. When it's all said and done, hopefully it'll be a peak."