Chris Smelley was back on a field at the University of South Carolina on Sunday.

But the former Gamecocks quarterback was playing a different sport for a different team.

Smelley returned to USC as a reserve catcher for Alabama's baseball team, pinch-hitting in the ninth inning of South Carolina's 20-15 win. It was his first appearance of the weekend series at Carolina Stadium.

Granted the home team was leading 20-12 at the time, but Smelley received loud cheers and a standing ovation before and after his at-bat.

"That was pretty special," Smelley said. "That meant a lot. That kind of sent chills up my spine."

Smelley, struggling this year (.167 average coming in), struck out looking.

The Tuscaloosa native transferred home after three seasons playing for Steve Spurrier. Spurrier's criticism and the fact that, really, Smelley didn't have an SEC-caliber arm eventually led to his defection from the school -- and the sport. He did throw for 3,210 yards and 23 touchdowns, starting several games for USC.

Smelley said he didn't know what sort of reception he'd get from Gamecocks fans, especially considering some had threatened on message boards and in the community to heckle the embattled QB.

But the 23-year-old said he was met with positive feedback during the duration of his stay, with the climax coming in his at-bat.

"I thought that was really a good thing," Bama coach Mitch Gaspard said. "I know that meant a lot to him."

USC recruited Smelley out of high school to play catcher, but Smelley opted for football. After three years away from the game, Smelley admits it's been a struggle to go back to baseball.

Smelley said he initially considered playing football for the Tide, as well. His brother Brad is a tight end for the current national champs. Smelley thought better of the decision.

"Baseball is enough of a challenge," said Smelley, who will have another year to play next season. "I'm just going to put all my focus in that."

You might see Smelley around Williams-Brice Stadium this fall. He'll be watching his brother from the stands when the Tide play the Gamecocks on Oct. 9.