Smith grew up in Cincinnati, but he was a Cubs fan. How come? "Well, when you come home from school, who's on? The Cubs," Joe said, listing Ryne Sandberg and Mark Grace and Sammy Sosa among his favorites. "All those day games on WGN, the superstation. It got to be one of those things. Before practice or whatever, the Cubs were always on." But he attended a lot of Reds' games.
"They were about 25 minutes from where I lived. And I went to college (Wright State) about an hour north of there," Smith said.
- It was a Wright State that Smith began an unusual uniform ritual. The bottom of the legs of his uniform pants would ride up and show more of his socks than Smith preferred. He found it necessary to make an adjustment.
That one adjustment, almost unnoticed when it began, has begat a series of uniform pulls and tugs that, over time, have become a ritual, one that is neither inconspicuous or rare.
Watch him. After each out, except the final out of an inning, Smith walks to the first base side of the mound, faces the rubber, bends at the waist and "fixes" himself.
It is a four-stage process that executes with almost drill-team precision. First, he tugs at the bottom on his pant legs—one hand on each leg. Then he adjusts the bottom of his "sliders," the long shorts worn under his uniform for protection again sliding burns (were he ever to reach base and need to slide). Again, one hand on each leg and a tug, another move of symmetry.
As he stands straight, Smith then appears to adjust the front of his belt when it fact he is trying to conceal an annoying tag inside the waist of his uniform pants. Stage 3 of the ritual also is a two-hand operation.
And, finally, standing straight, he adjusts his cap with two hands. One, two, three, four. And only then will he return to the rubber and go about his business.
"When I got to Brooklyn [his first minor league assignment after he was drafted], I figured I'd stop so I wouldn't be made fun of," he says. "But the first time I didn't do it, I pitched horrible. So I said 'Let them get on me. I'd rather pitch well.'" (Marty Noble-MLB.com-5/06/07)
In 2006, pitching for Wright State, Smith posted a regular-season 0.98 ERA—which would lead NCAA Division I if he weren't five innings short of qualifying.
Before 2007 spring training, Baseball America rated Smith as 9th-best prospect in the Mets organization. And in the spring of 2008, they rated him as #11 in the Mets farm system.
Joe fits in well in the clubhouse. During his rookie season (2007), Smith was under the wing of Aaron Sele.
- In April 2007, Joe got his first ticket—$115 for illegal parking in Long Island City. He wasn't real pleased.
"The sign said 'No standing.' Well, I wasn't standing. I was parking," Smith said. "If they mean 'No parking,' shouldn't it say 'No parking?' I mean, I just figured they didn't want anyone standing there. I don't know why. I mean, obviously, there are a few things I don't know about New York. But there was a lot of room to park."
Smith loves to fish.
As a kid, Joe says his favorite TV shows were Fresh Prince and Friends. Now, he watches very little TV, but likes movies, especially comedies. His favorite comedians are Will Smith and Will Ferrell.
Joe likes country music, especially Tim McGraw, Rodney Atkins, and Kenny Chesney.
May 21, 2012: According to a police report filed by the Put-in-Bay (Ohio) Police Department, Smith was involved in an altercation at the Roundhouse Bar while accompanied by Jack Laforce and Allie Laforce, who is a sports reporter for FOX 8 in Cleveland. Smith was reportedly denied entrance to the bar due to a lack of proper identification and then needed to be physically removed from the property by bar security.
There was an alleged scuffle outside the bar, and officers later located Smith and Jack Laforce on a boat at a nearby dock. Smith and Laforce were then placed in "investigative detention" and handcuffed before being released with no charges filed, according to the police report. The police report also identified Allie Laforce as "Mr. Smith's girlfriend."
"That's my personal life," Smith said. "I don't think you all need to know any of that."
Indians manager Manny Acta said Smith informed him of what actually took place, adding that the pitcher had the manager's support.
Smith was an energetic kid who was forced to weather a traumatic operation as a boy. True to his nature, however, after the operation young Smith doubled his determination and effort. He was cut from his college team as a freshman but came back the next year as a sidearm pitcher and won a spot.
Huntington's disease has progressively robbed Joe's mother of her true identity. Huntington's disease is a deadly, neurodegenerative disorder that's inherited within families, causing involuntary movements, physical disability, emotional disturbance and cognitive impairment.
Smith's grandmother suffered from Huntington's until her death, his mother has been dealing with it for the better part of a decade, and there's a 50 percent chance that he or his sister, 28-year-old Megan Nein, will someday get it, too. (2014)
October 2015: In recognition of his efforts to raise awareness and funds for Huntington’s Disease, Angels reliever Joe Smith was honored with the Guthrie Award at the 15th annual HDSA San Diego “Celebration of Hope” Gala. That night, in front of over 400 people at a house in Point Loma, Smith gave a heartfelt speech about the disease that is prevalent in his family.
“I hate to use the word money, but that’s what it takes for research, and that’s what it’s going to take to save my mom,” Smith said towards the end. “I’d give every dime I have if they had a cure today.”
More information, and a way to donate, can be found at HelpCureHD.com, a site started by Smith and his wife, CBS sideline reporter Allie LaForce.
Huntington’s disease is a deadly, neurodegenerative disorder that’s inherited within families, causing involuntary movements, physical disability, emotional disturbance and cognitive impairment. Smith’s grandmother suffered from Huntington’s until her death, his mother has been dealing with it for the better part of a decade, and there’s a 50-percent chance he or his sister, Megan Nein, will someday get it, too.
Smith recalled the day his mom, Lee, was told she had HD. It was February 2012. Smith was driving to the Indians’ Spring Training facility in Goodyear, Ariz., when he got a call from his father, Mike, with the news. Then his mom came on the phone.
“I’ll never forget the sound of her voice—it was just empty,” Smith said, breaking down in tears. “I’ve never heard anything like it. That stayed with me for a long time, that sound, when she said. ‘Hi, Joseph.’ Just the way she said it.”
Smith and LaForce launched the website two Octobers ago and have since raised $400,000 through it. Their goal is $2 million for research. Over the years, Smith has learned a lot about HD, which affects more than 30,000 Americans, with another 200,000 or so at risk. In the meantime, he’s gained a whole new level of admiration for his mother.
“Sorry, Dad, I get my toughness from my mom,” Smith said at one point, drawing a laugh from the audience. “If you talk to her, she’s full of energy, she’s witty, she’s very funny. She stares it right in the face every day.”
April 11, 2016: Oakland, Calif. • Joe Smith made a blind, backward, over-the-head free throw that Stephen Curry couldn't match. Then, the Angels relief pitcher stymied the reigning NBA MVP on a left-handed 3-pointer and had suddenly beaten arguably the world's best basketball player at a good-natured game of PIG.
"That was fun. I loved it," a giddy Smith said afterward. "I'm not that bad. I ain't that good either. Sometimes a little bit of luck, a lot bit of luck."
Whether Curry brought his absolute best stuff to the post-practice contest, we'll never know. It sure made Smith's day to walk away a winner from the defending champion Golden State Warriors' practice. Smith, infielder Cliff Pennington and sluggers Albert Pujols and Mike Trout attended practice before their night game against the Oakland Athletics some 10 minutes down the freeway at the Coliseum. (AP/April 2016)
Joe is married to Alexandra Leigh "Allie" LaForce. She is a journalist, model and beauty queen. She is a reporter and anchor for CBS Sports, where she serves as the lead reporter for SEC college football. Allie also played college basketball at Ohio University.
There's Justin Verlander and his wife, Kate Upton. Carlos Correa and his fiancee, Daniella Rodriguez. There's Lance McCullers Jr. and his wife, Kara. And in 2018 the Astros had to make room for another power couple.
Joe is married (in January 2015) to Allie LaForce, a courtside reporter for college basketball games and the NBA on TNT, and at the time of this article was working the 2018 NCAA Tournament.
Smith and LaForce spend about as much time together as they do apart. Their crazy travel schedules -- Smith as an MLB pitcher in the summer and LaForce reporting in the fall, spring, and winter during football and basketball seasons -- have become a way of life that neither would trade.
"The only difficult thing is when I'm off in the summer for about a month and a half or two and he's at the field every day, and then when he's off in the winter I have a game every couple of days," LaForce said. "We just aren't in sync with one other [work-wise]."
LaForce, who was Miss Teen USA in 2005, was working as a reporter at a local TV station in Cleveland when Smith became smitten and messaged her on Twitter, challenging her to a basketball game in 2011. LaForce was a walk-on basketball player at Ohio University. "Once I got her number, I just kind of bugged the heck out of her for a few months until she agreed to come out with me," Smith said.
Said LaForce: "The more we talked, the more we connected."
When the pair met at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland to challenge each other in shooting hoops, LaForce brought a camera crew. LaForce won the first round and Smith, the second. They decided a half-court shot would break the tie, which Smith made. When the package aired on TV, Smith said LaForce's win was all that was shown.
"When you edit your own film, you make it out like however you want it," he joked.
"In his defense, he won two out of three," she said.
Smith, who has appeared in 698 Major League games with the Mets, Indians, Angels, Cubs and Blue Jays, watches LaForce on TV as much as he can, but isn't a fan of attending the games in which she's working.
Perhaps the best thing about their jobs, Smith said, is sharing them with family, whether that's having family attend a road trip for a baseball game or seeing LaForce work the court in person. "When you hear them talk about the experiences they've had with us and the different places they've gotten to go to, it's just a lot of fun when they get to come out," he said.
And that, LaForce says, makes it all worth it. "We have friends and family members who are like, 'It was the greatest day of our year when we were there at the field with you and guys won at the last minute,' or 'We got to see her work the Final Four,'" she said. "It's like, 'Really? 'Cause we do that all the time. That's the best moment you had?' That shows us how lucky we are to be able to do what we do." (McTaggart - mlb.com - 3/16/18)
Feb 18, 2019: They wrestled with the decision to start a family for five years. It's something most young couples discuss at some point. Timing is important, and considering their busy lives, even more so for Astros pitcher Joe Smith and his wife, TV sports reporter Allie LaForce. The issue facing the couple is far more momentous than most others have to deal with -- one that's a matter of life and death. Smith's mother, Lee, has Huntington's disease, a fatal neurological disorder with no cure. She inherited it from her mother, who died from it in 2012. There's a 50-50 chance Smith has the disease, as well, which means there's the same chance any children they bear will carry the disease.
That's why the power couple has been trying to spread the word about their foundation and HelpCureHD.org, which aims to help improve the quality of life for those affected by Huntington's disease by contributing financial, emotional and mental support while trying to find a cure. "She knew about it, obviously, before we got married and knew where my mom was and where my mom was going, and knew I had a 50-50 chance," Smith said. "One of the biggest things about the disease is the way it affects families. It's not just the person that's going through it. It's the whole family."
Huntington's disease causes the progressive breakdown of nerve cells in the brain. It deteriorates a person's physical and mental abilities during their prime working years, between 30-50 years old. Smith's mother, Lee, was diagnosed in 2012, and three years ago went into a nursing home at 59 years old. Smith called it "a disgusting disease."
"It's a battle every day, and I can't even put into words, until you're around it every day, not only do you see what it does to the person infected, but the whole family," Smith said. "Everybody worries about my mom, but you look at my dad and the pain and agony he's suffering. They're supposed to be in their golden years and traveling around and watching baseball, or going to see my sister and the grandkids. He's trying to help her as much as he can."
There are tests that could predict whether a person will have the disease, but Smith and his sister would rather not know. He's not sure how a positive result would affect him mentally. Smith and LaForce aren't letting the disease stop their dream of starting a family, though. They're using in vitro fertilization along with genetic testing that will allow only healthy embryos to be implanted. This would guarantee their child would be HD-free, stopping the disease from spreading down generations.
LaForce admittedly publicly the first try at pre-implantation genetic diagnosis in vitro fertilization didn't work out. The process can cost as much as $30,000-$40,000 per attempt, which Smith and LaForce can afford. They know most couples seeking to have HD-free children can't.
"The point of going public is making people feel like they're not alone, that this isn't easy, it's a not a perfect science and that it's expensive," LaForce said. "It's really important we're going through it, so we can relate to the people through our foundation and HelpCureHD.com that are going through this, that we can relate to them and know the expenses of it."
The pair have raised more than a million dollars through their foundation and HelpCureHD.org to help families with the cost of the PGD-IVF tests. They've partnered with the Houston Fertility Institute and Cleveland Clinic in Ohio in pledging discounts for those couples who are referred by the charity.
"Watching my mom every day and going into a nursing home and getting worse, for me I understand the moral debate [of having a child]," Smith said. "We thought about it for a long time. We've prayed about it. … If I can take this out of our family line, it's a no-brainer." (B McCatggart - MLB.com - Feb 18, 2019)
June 2006: Joe signed for a bonus of $410,000 after the Mets drafted him in the third round, out of Wright State University in Ohio. Erwin Bryant is the scout who signed him.
December 11, 2008: In a complicated swap, the Mets sent six players to the Mariners, including Aaron Heilman, Endy Chavez, Double-A first baseman Mike Carp, lefthander Jason Vargas, and prospects Maikel Cleto and Ezequiel Carrera. They also shipped reliever Joe Smith to the Indians, with the Indians receiving infielder Luis Valbuena from the Mariners. The Mets picked up J.J. Putz from Seattle along with righthander Sean Green and outfielder Jeremy Reed.
December 2, 2010: Smith signed a one-year pact with the Indians worth $870,000 plus incentives.
January 17, 2012: Joe and the Indians avoided arbitration, agreeing on a one-year, $1.75 million contract.
January 18, 2013: Smith and the Tribe again avoided arbitration, agreeing to a one-year, $3.15 million contract.
November 25, 2013: Smith and the Angels agree on a three-year contract worth $15.75 million. He can also receive $500,000 in annual bonuses.
August 1, 2016: The Cubs sent RHP Jesus Castillo to the Angels, acquiring Smith.
Feb 4, 2017: The Blue Jays signed free agent Smith to a one year deal.
July 31, 2017: The Blue Jays traded RHP Joe Smith to Cleveland Indians for LHP Thomas Pannone and 2B Samad Taylor.
Nov 2, 2017: Joe chose free agency.
Dec. 13, 2017: Smith signed a 2-year $15 million contract with the Astros.
Oct 31, 2019: Smith chose free agency.
- Dec 16, 2019: The Astros signed free agent Smith to a 2-year $8 million deal.
|Birth City:||Cincinnati, OH|
|Draft:||Mets #3 - 2006 - Out of Wright State Univ. (OH)|
A true sidearmer, Smith has an 88-92 mph 2-seam SINKER with excellent sinking and fading action, along with an 89-94 mph 4-seam FASTBALL. Joe also has a nasty, late-breaking, 80-83 mph two-plane SLIDER that has real bite, causing righthanded batters to bail out on it. And he has a 78-81 mph CHANGEUP, but rarely uses it.
Against righthanded hitters, Joe throws predominantly 4-seamers, with a few sliders. Against lefties, Joe mixes the 2-seamer with his slider almost 50:50, with a rare change thrown in.
2016 Season Pitch Usage: 4-seam Fastball: 14.4% of the time; Sinker 48% of the time; Change 5.7%; and Slider 32% of the time.
2017 Season Pitch Usage: 4-seam Fastball: 29% of the time; Sinker 37.6% of the time; Change .7%; and Slider 32.8% of the time.
2018 Season Pitch Usage: 4-seam Fastball: 31.7% of the time; Sinker 33.3%; Change less than 1%; and Slider 34.7% of the time. Average velocity: 4-seam 88.6 mph, Sinker 88, Change 79.6, and Slider 79.1 mph.
- 2019 Season Pitch Usage: 4-seam Fastball: 24.9% of the time; Sinker 32.3%; Change 1.4%; and Slider 41.4% of the time. Average velocity: 4-seam 89.2 mph, Sinker 87.4, Change 77.9, and Slider 79.7 mph.
Sidearmer Joe Smith can best be described as "Deceptive." He doesn't show the ball, maintaining an even arm slot for all of his pitches.
One scout described Smith: "He has a stuttered, side-armed, odd throwing mechanics, just all around weird delivery.
Righthanded hitters have trouble picking the ball up out of Joe's low sidearm/submarine delivery. He gets a lot of groundouts with his fine sinker. Lefthanded batters have good success off Joe. He throws a lot harder than most sidearm pitchers.
- Joe is working to establish both sides of the plate—especially the inner half.
- Smith is confident when he gets on the mound, glaring in with a cold stare.
During 2008 spring training, the Mets had Joe change his mechanics somewhat, so now he stands straighter before he begins his delivery to make his release point and his velocity more consistent and restore life to his pitches.
People around the team have suggested his on-mound body language—hitters can read it—needs improvement and that he concern himself less with lefthanded hitters. He's not likely to face that many, anyway.
"A shot of confidence wouldn't hurt him," a teammate said. "His stuff can be deadly. But he needs to trust it. No righthanded hitter looks forward to seeing that."
Tribe manager Terry Francona uses Joe often and appreciates his consistency.
"Because of his arm angle, I think people sometimes take for granted that he's a situational guy, and he's not," Francona said. "He's learned to take the sting out of a lot of lefthanders' bats. He's always going to be tougher vs. righties because of his style. But he's learned how to elevate a fastball, throw a breaking ball to a lefty, to kind of neutralize them enough [to] where he can pitch full innings when the game is on the line."
"He's just really dependable," Francona said. "You can't run on him. He doesn't really walk very many guys. That's a nice combination." (4/04/13)
SWITCH TO SIDEARM DELIVERY
- It was fall workouts at Wright State University in 2004, and new pitching coach Greg Lovelady badly wanted a sidearm reliever. So he went around the room asking for volunteers, probing mostly the pitchers who otherwise had little chance of cracking his depth chart.
Joe Smith, then a redshirt-sophomore coming off a solid first season, raised his hand.
"He had the best numbers of the returners," said Lovelady, now Wright State's head baseball coach. "I didn't really think of him doing that. But we were like, 'OK, let's try it with this guy, that guy,' and next thing you know, everybody wants to try it. Joe steps up and throws, and it's like, 'Wow, that's actually pretty good.'"
That's the day that changed Smith's baseball career forever. It took him from a mediocre amateur pitcher to a third-round draft pick by the Mets in 2006, one of baseball's most effective relievers with the Indians from 2011-13, and as a $15.75 million setup man for the Angels.
First, Smith needed to accept the change.
He volunteered as a joke. But when Lovelady told him he'd be his closer the following season if he accepted, things suddenly got serious.
The proof came via the radar gun, which ultimately clocked Smith's fastball a couple of ticks higher in each of his two seasons as a collegiate sidearmer.
"I don't know. Somehow my velocity just ended up getting stronger, even though I dropped down," Smith said.
It's that sidearm motion, coupled with Smith's propensity for inducing groundouts, that gives the Angels some important diversity in the back end of a bullpen that's filled mostly by power, over-the-top right-handed throwers. (12/02/13)
Joe couldn't crack the Wright State roster in his first year at college. Then he made the team as a walk-on in 2004, posting a 2.75 ERA while throwing overhand. A new coaching staff arrived the next year and wanted a sidearm reliever to give the pitching staff a different look. They chose Smith, against his family’s will.
“His Dad threw a fit, ‘What are you, crazy?’” Wright State pitching coach Greg Lovelady said. "He probably thought I was the worst coach in America.”
Lovelady, trying to sell him on the switch, asked Smith if he had ever seen Chad Bradford pitch. Smith had not, but he went home and used Bradford while playing a video game, which helped sell the idea.
With the new arm slot, Smith gained about 5 mph on his fastball. His stats the next two college seasons: 1.03 ERA, .171 opponents' average, and 21 saves.
"That slider he's able to command is a huge equalizer for him," friend and Indians reliever Vinnie Pestano said. "He can start it two feet outside and bring it back to the outside corner, he can [backdoor] guys with it, and just that sink he gets on his fastball. He can work both sides of the plate with that. When he's able to locate both of those, it's going to be a tough day for a lefty or a righty." (3/10/14)
- As of the start of the 2020 season, Smith has a career record of 50-29 with 2.98 ERA, having allowed 54 home runs and 573 hits in 695 innings.
- Joe holds runners on base well. He is difficult for the opposition to run on.
2002: Smith had shoulder surgery as a high school senior.
August 15, 2007: Joe was on the D.L. at New Orleans with bicep tendinitis.
February 21, 2009: Smith had to sit out five days with a very bad headache. As for the illness, Joe didn't think it was a migraine. "It was like a flu bug. It has pretty much worked its way out now . . . I just sat around and waited for it to leave."
May 1-June 9, 2009: Joe was on the D.L. with a strained right rotator cuff. And he also suffered with a viral infection.
September 5-23, 2009: Smith was on the D.L. with a sprained left knee. He came back for a game or so, but went out for the last week of the season, because he couldn't move laterally, later undergoing arthroscopic surgery. The surgery cleaned out loose bodies in Joe's left knee.
March 8-April 15, 2011: Joe was sidelined for over a month with an abdominal strain and had to begin the season on the D.L.
September 19, 2015: Angels setup man Joe Smith was unavailable to pitch, because he sprained his left ankle leaving the team hotel and was in a walking boot and on crutches. Smith said he was saying goodbye to the hotel bellman when he turned around. He thought he was at the bottom of the stairs. It turns out he wasn't. He had one more left and his heel caught, causing him to go backward and then forward, landing in a push-up position. Initial tests were negative, but he needed to wait until the swelling went down for further information.
June 5-July 1, 2016: Joe was on the DL with a left hamstring strain.
Aug 17-Sept 1, 2016: Joe was on the DL with a left hamstring strain.
June 19-July 22, 2017: Joe was on the DL with right shoulder inflammation.
June 7-July 3, 2018: Joe was on the DL with right elbow soreness.
Dec. 20, 2018: The Astros' announced that right-hander Joe Smith had surgery after rupturing his left Achilles tendon. The 34-year-old Smith sustained the injury in a recent workout, according to the Astros.
- March 25-July 12, 2019: Joe was on the IL with left achilles tendon surgery.