One of the best stories of the 2019 season for the Los Angeles Dodgers was the emergence of rookie Will Smith. Originally overshadowed in prospect rankings by fellow catcher Keibert Ruiz, Smith burst on the scene midseason with a knack for clutch hitting.
By the end of July, Smith had taken over the Dodgers’ starting catcher job from the struggling Austin Barnes. At that point, his “Fresh Prince” nickname, a homage to the TV show that popularized Will Smith the actor, became a major part of his status as a fan-favorite.
In Smith’s MLB debut, veteran Russell Martin changed his Dodger Stadium walk-up song to the “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” theme, and Smith stuck with it. Smith even changed his Instagram username to reference the show.
But the “Fresh Prince” moniker only became a trend when Smith arrived in Los Angeles. Before that, he went by a much simpler nickname, which he still considers his main one, per Jack Harris of the L.A. Times:
“I think ‘Smitty’ is more an actual nickname,” he said. “The ‘Fresh Prince’ one kind of grew when I got here in L.A. and started playing well.”
Multiple Minor League officials who have been with Smith across his rise in the Dodgers’ farm system still refer to him as “Smitty.” Yet Smith’s shared name with the A-list Hollywood actor has provided some fun moments.
When Smith had his first career multi-home run game against the Miami Marlins in August, SportsNet LA broadcaster Joe Davis belted out, “Welcome to Miami, Will Smith!” — a nod to a popular 1990s rap song by the other Smith.
Baseball fans also got a kick out of watching Smith hit against veteran San Francisco Giants closer Will Smith. It reminded some of an upcoming movie, “Gemini Man,” where the actor Smith plays a hitman who battles a younger clone of himself.
In real life, the veteran Smith struck out the rookie.
Smith was not the only Dodgers rookie to get handed a nickname upon his promotion to the Major Leagues. Some took to calling Dustin May “Gingergaard” upon his MLB debut, because of flowing red hair and the similarity of his pitch types to Noah Syndergaard.
However, both May and fellow top prospect turned MLB rookie Gavin Lux seem to prefer an older nickname for in “Big Red”. May also sometimes goes by “Code Red” in a semi-serious bid to get sponsored by Mountain Dew, which has a drink by that name.