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Photo Courtesy , University Of Utah
University of Utah head baseball coach Bill Kinneberg, left, poses with Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith during the Utes' annual season-opening banquet Tuesday night. Smith, regarded as one of the game's greatest shortstops ever, was a 13-time Gold Glove Award winner who set major league shortstop records for assists, double plays and chances in 19 seasons with the Cardinals and Padres. A 15-time All-Star, he finished his career with over 2,400 base hits and 500 stolen bases.

Deseret News sports writer Dirk Facer joined other members of the media in meeting with Hall of Fame shortstop Ozzie Smith before Tuesday's Utah baseball fundraising banquet in downtown Salt Lake City. Smith, who played for the San Diego Padres and St. Louis Cardinals, was a 15-time all-star and 13-time Gold Glove winner. He helped the Cardinals win the 1982 World Series and was named MVP of the 1985 NLCS. Smith was a first ballot Hall of Famer in 2002.

Q: What brought you to Utah to help out the Utes?

A: "It's one of the good things that when you've been fortunate enough to play this great game to be able to give back a little bit. Through the word of mouth you learn about good programs and coach (Bill) Kinneberg runs a good program here. I was recommended by one of my fellow Hall of Famers (2011 guest speaker Dave Winfield) to come up here and see what it's all about and everything's been true. ... It's been first class."

Q: What message do you have to share?

A: "It's just really about working hard and knowing that you're only going to get out of something what you put in. If you don't put anything in you shouldn't expect anything in return. That's not just baseball, but that's life as well."

Q: How are your back flips looking these days?

A: "Not very good. Those days are long gone. It took me 57 years, but I'm scared now."

Q: What do you think about Albert Pujols' decision to leave the Cardinals and sign with the Angels?

A: "I'm not disappointed. We got to see him 11 wonderful years and for those people who don't think this is a business, this is a business. Any time that you have a player of his caliber go out on the free agent market, there's a chance that what happened is going to happen. I knew that going in. I think the Cardinals knew that. I can't blame the Cardinals. They couldn't afford $250 million, but there just happened to be a team — and think about this, this was like a down market because the Yankees weren't in it, Boston wasn't in it — and he was still able to get $250 million and the 10 years that he was looking for."

Q: Why are St. Louis fans considered by many to be the best in baseball?

A: "There are a lot of fans around the game that are very, very knowledgeable. These people just happen to be in a town that you're weaned on baseball. Season tickets are passed down from generation to generation and even if the team is not good they still support it. ... If you give the effort day in and day out, they show their loyalty by coming whether you're winning or losing."