Ozzie Smith fields hard questions like he fielded hot infield shots.
Asked if he would welcome the newest member of baseball's 600-home run club to the Hall of Fame roster he joined in 2002, the former St. Louis Cardinals great avoided naming Alex Rodriguez by name but made his feelings clearly known.
"From my perspective, if a guy tested positive (for steroids) or a guy admitted to using, it means he cheated," Smith said Monday in a telephone interview. "We banned Pete Rose from baseball for betting. What he did on the baseball field was unparrallelled. So if you if you're going to ban him from baseball completely, then if a guy tested positive or admitted using, he automatically eliminates himself from being part of the Hall of Fame."
Smith - who earned his Hall call by playing the position of shortstop arguably better than anyone ever has - will be in the Quad-Cities on Aug. 22 for the newest edition of Viewpoint Distinguished Speakers Series.
As featured speaker for the Eastern Iowa Community College District-sanctioned event, Smith decidedly will be in his element.
The event takes place at Modern Woodman Park in Davenport and is being haled as "A Day at the Ballpark with the Wizard."
Smith, who answered to the nickname "Wizard of Oz" in his playing days, will participate as an honorary coach in a 2:30 p.m. youth clinic and will speak from home plate at 5 p.m.
Could there be a more appropriate place for the podium?
"I'd probably be more in my element at shortstop," joked Smith, a 13-time Gold Glove winner during a 19-year, big-league career. "But it should be a fun evening and hopefully we are able to reach some people, both through the clinic and through our talk."
Smith said his message will implore youngsters to reach for their dreams through hard work and dedication, but also "to make sure that the things you dream about are attainable."
Smith's big-league dream came true, but he said he also studied to be a teacher as a fallback option.
"We don't always fall into the thing we want to fall into," he said. "Whatever we happen to fall into, we want to be the best at."
Smith fit that bill in the middle of an infield. He holds big-league shortstop records for games played, assists and double-plays turned, was a 10-time All-Star and also was a .262 career hitter.
Although he is well-remembered by Cardinals fans for his "Go crazy, folks," National Championship-clinching home run in 1985, Smith finished his career with just 28 homers.
Yet, he still was a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer. No steroids required.
Instead, Smith said, sound, fundamental execution did the job. He hopes the game is moving that direction again.
"That was the core baseball was built on," he said. " Yeah, the home runs are pretty and chicks dig the long ball, but what happens when the power is shut off? You've still got to find ways to score, to win."
Smith said he would like to believe the Steroid Era is in the game's past.
"If you are baseball fan, you hope that's over with and it's done," he said, but, he said he also hopes there remains a day of reckoning for Rodriguez and his chemically-enhanced ilk.
"I think you see that there is a price to be paid," he said. "The reward for those guys was the fact they received longer contracts and made more money."
They won't be welcomed into Ozzie Smith's Hall of Fame.