Cade Smith reunites with family, sets club record in MLB debut

March 30th, 2024

OAKLAND — The moment was almost too much for a father to process.

Tim Smith sat in an aisle seat of section 113 at the Oakland Coliseum on Saturday, waiting for his son, Cade, to get called out of Cleveland’s bullpen to make his debut. The Smith family would be flying back home to Vancouver the next day and couldn’t miss this special moment. They had endured too much for destiny to be that cruel to them, considering the Smiths went a year without seeing their oldest child.

Everything had fallen into place up to this point. Tim had gotten clearance on Tuesday from his cardiologist to travel after having open heart surgery in December. He needed to leave on Wednesday to be in Oakland in time for Opening Day. It was nearly a miracle that this all came together. So, for the ending to be even more than any of them could imagine, it was just icing on the cake.

Cade Smith, the Guardians’ No. 25 prospect, was the highlight of the Guardians’ 12-3 victory over the A’s on Saturday, as he recorded five strikeouts in two hitless innings with one walk. He set a club record for the most strikeouts in a debut of two innings or fewer. The 24-year-old righty’s heater averaged 96 mph and topped out at 97.9 mph. Cade’s debut couldn’t have gone much better.

“To see somebody make their Major League debut just like that and dominate, it was great,” Guardians manager Stephen Vogt said. “I couldn’t be more thrilled for him and his family today.”

There was so much standing in the way of this emotional and incredible moment for the Smiths. Let’s go back to last August.

Cade hasn’t been able to travel home to Vancouver to see his parents, sister or brother because of restrictions of the application process for a U.S. residency, which he first applied for in December 2022.

His parents were hoping to come to him since they hadn’t seen him since Spring Training, but Tim had an appointment with a cardiologist scheduled and before they traveled, it was determined that Tim needed open heart surgery, which he underwent on December 19. Cade was stuck in the United States, limited to checking in on his family via FaceTime.

“For him, he couldn’t be around to help his mom or comfort anyone,” Tim said.

After a successful procedure, the countdown began. Tim knew that his insurance prevented him from traveling to the United States for at least 90 days after his surgery. That meant no Spring Training and an even longer wait to see his firstborn. Meanwhile, Cade put together a strong camp, and as regular relievers on the big league roster were coming down with illnesses or injuries, the possibility of Cade making the Opening Day roster became more and more likely.

That was, until last weekend. The Guardians’ front office and Vogt worked together to create the final 26-man roster. Cade was told that he did everything he could to earn his spot, but the club was going to still look for external relievers to possibly add to the roster. If they found a match, Cade would begin the year at Triple-A Columbus. If they didn’t, the Opening Day roster spot was his.

In the case that he would make the team, the Smiths would need to see if it’d be possible to be in attendance. That sent Tim back to his doctor to try to get approval.

On Tuesday, it had been 97 days since Tim’s surgery — just seven days past the minimum required to travel to the United States. Tim asked his doctor for permission to make it to Oakland just in case his son would make his big league debut. Less than 24 hours from the time he’d need to be on a plane to make it in time, Tim was given the green light.

“God has worked things out for us,” Tim said. “The timing has been crazy.”

The family was reunited on Wednesday. It was the first time Cade saw his parents in a year and the first time being with his siblings in a year and a half.

Cade got word that he was likely to make the roster on Wednesday, but he didn’t celebrate until Thursday morning, when the Guardians officially posted their roster. He was sitting in a hotel room with his family, playing cards just like old times when the news broke. They paused their game and hugged.

In the fifth inning on Saturday, Cade started to warm up in the bullpen. As he made his way to the mound in the sixth, the Smiths held their phones high to record the moment, beaming with pride.

With a four-run lead, the Guardians were ready to let Cade get his feet wet in the Majors, but he proved he didn’t need the extra cushion. Tim sat back in his chair, unable to process the ending of the unbelievable story this family has written over the last 12 months. When he was asked what it was like to watch his son run onto the Major League field, he couldn’t hold back tears.

Tim smiled and said, “That’s more than we could ask, right?”