PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — It is a mound of goodness on a plate, a delicacy that is much appreciated in Southern California, where Mets prospect Dominic Smith grew up.
Slathered in melted cheese and the red sauce most associated with enchiladas, the caloric dirty bombs known as wet burritos once had been among Smith’s favorite vices. Authentic Mexican food always had been his go-to, and it showed.
A year ago, when Smith reported to camp, the first baseman turned heads for all the wrong reasons. The former first-round draft pick arrived at spring training with a noticeable gut. Rival scouts took notice. He was drafted 11th overall in 2013 at 195 pounds. By the end of last season, the 6-footer was pushing 260.
“I was kind of, a little bit uncomfortable toward the end of the year,” Smith said. “Very tired, and my legs hurt a little bit. I wanted to change my regimen, eat healthier, and not just go on a diet but just change my lifestyle, just have a clean, healthy lifestyle.”
Smith, 21, dropped 24 pounds in preparation for a critical season. After showing hints of the power that the Mets have long projected, he is ticketed for Triple-A Las Vegas. With Lucas Duda set to become a free agent at season’s end, Smith’s path to the big leagues could become clear.
“There were definitely a lot of weekends where I wanted to sneak out and get a burger or two,” Smith said. “I just kind of really thought to myself and really just told myself to work hard. Fast food’s not good for you. Now, if I eat a burger or something, I’ll feel very sluggish. I just want to feel good. That healthy food just does so much for your body. It gives you energy. I just feel great.”
Fitness had never been a priority for Smith, who kept hitting even as he gained weight. With a smooth lefthanded swing, he had a .302/.367/.457 slash line, 14 homers and 91 RBIs last season for Double-A Binghamton. For the first time as a pro, he finished with double digits in home runs.
Hitting coach Kevin Long heard encouraging scouting reports from his son, Jaron, a minor-league pitcher in the Nationals’ system.
“All I hear about Dom Smith is that he can hit and that he can flat-out play,” Kevin Long said.
With durability in mind, and with some encouragement from the Mets, Smith went to work on his body. He dumped the carne asada, the sour cream, the extra cheese and, yes, those beloved wet burritos. He rose earlier in the day to prepare his own meals. New staples included brown rice, broccoli, chicken and salmon.
“It was a dramatic change,” said Smith, who had never shed so many pounds.
He worked out with trainers at a complex in Fresno and with Mets fitness guru Mike Barwis in Michigan. As spring training approached, he looked more and more like the better side of a before-and-after photo.
“It’s funny. When I look at myself in the mirror, I can’t really tell the difference,” Smith said. “But when I look at pictures, I just can’t even believe that I was that big.”
Smith said he has reached a more comfortable weight. He’s more athletic and lean, his goal at the start of the offseason. It hasn’t gone unnoticed by the Mets.
“When you’re young, because you’ve always had success, that’s hard to do,” manager Terry Collins said. “Look at him today. He’s lost [nearly] 30 pounds. He said, ‘I’m going to show them that I can do this,’ and I really respect that. That’s tough to do when you’re a young guy.”