It was February 1986, and Smith recalls it being "about 50 below." But when the Twins offered him the job, he jumped at it, even though it was a significant pay cut from his job in the minors.
"That's the kind of guy he is," MacPhail said.
Smith smiled at the memory, saying, "Best drive I ever made."
Even then, Smith had gained considerable experience.
The story really begins at Hamilton College in 1979, when Smith skipped the final week of class to attend baseball's annual winter meetings.
"Every year before that, [the winter meetings were] in the south -- Hawaii, Texas and Florida, and I was going to school in upstate New York. That year, they were in Toronto. I took the bus up there. I was trying to convince my professors why I was missing class to go to a baseball trade show."
It wasn't a wasted trip. Smith learned of a new initiative called the Major League Baseball Executive Development Program.
"Frank Cashen started the program with the idea that we have to bring new blood into the game," Smith said. "Too often the positions were filled by friends, family and former players, and here came the son of a Coast Guard officer, a French major, all that stuff, a little off the wall.
"And somehow I survived all the cuts."
After nine months of wide-ranging apprenticeship in the commissioner's office, Smith got hired by the White Sox, where he spent two years in the baseball operations department. He moved on to spend three years as Appleton's GM before current Detroit Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski gave him a tip that the Twins were looking to hire.
Smith worked under Dombrowski and Roland Hemond with the White Sox.
MacPhail liked Smith right away. They worked together to help design the team's new spring training complex in Fort Myers, Fla.
MacPhail noted that Smith learned a third language after taking charge of the Twins' academies in Venezuela and the Dominican Republic.
"He was a French major in college, and then picked up Spanish," MacPhail said, marveling.
Smith said everything he knows about player evaluation he learned from Ryan.
They complemented each other well. Ryan made baseball decisions, and Smith helped him finish the paperwork and follow the commissioner's office guidelines. And Smith branched out into many different areas.
"You want to talk about international scouting, he's done it," Ryan said. "You want to talk about minor leagues, he's on the Minor League Baseball Board of Trustees. You want to talk about major league contracts, he's done contracts. You want to talk about rules, he's done rules."