Joseph Michael Smith, aka Joe, is a professional baseball pitcher for the Houston Astros who is also married to Turner Sports reporter Allie LaForce.
Smith, 34, has played for a handful of Major League Baseball (MLB) teams: the New York Mets, Cleveland Indians, Los Angeles Angels, Chicago Cubs and Toronto Blue Jays. The Mets drafted him in the third round of the 2006 Major League Baseball draft.
Smith is married Allie LaForce, a former Miss USA pageant winner who joined Turner Sports in 2018, in his home state of Ohio in 2015. LaForce is also from Ohio.
As a relief pitcher, Smith’s career win-loss record is 49–29 with a career Earned Run Average (ERA) of 3.02, according to MLB.com.
In December 2018, he ruptured his Achilles tendon during a workout, underwent surgery and was expected to miss six to eight months.
1. Smith Has Bounced Around A Lot, and the Veteran Pitcher Has Played for Six Different Teams
The Mets drafted Smith in 2007 after a career at Wright State in Ohio, and he made his debut with Brooklyn (A) of the New York–Penn League on June 21, 2007. He was named the 10th top prospects in the New York–Penn League by Baseball America that season.
Smith joined the Indians in 2008 in a trade, where he remained until 2013.
In November 2013, Smith was traded to the Angels. In April 2014, Smith was named the Angels’ new closer before he was moved to an eighth-inning setup role in July 2014. Smith finished with 15 saves in 76 games with an ERA of 1.81. He was doing quite well statistically before he went on the disabled list with a hamstring injury in June 2016.
Smith was with the Cubs in 2016 and the Blue Jays in 2017. He returned to the Indians in July 2017 before being traded to the Astros in December 2017.
On December 13, 2017, Smith signed a two-year contract with the Houston Astros worth $15 million. In his first season in Houston, Smith appeared in 56 games, recording a record of 5-1 in 45 2⁄3 innings. He underwent surgery for his ruptured Achilles on December 20, 2018.
2. Smith Is Known For His Unique Pitching Style
“Smith comes at you from third base, the hitters will say. His release point is at about 8:30 on the non-digital clock, lower than sidearm, higher than submarine or Jeff Innis. He is Chad Bradford-ish, the Mets hope. At 22, he is a Mets hope,” according to an article from his time in the minors in 2007.
The article continues: “For now, the Mets will watch and see how he develops and how hitters respond to his combination of sidearm slider, sinking fastball and changeup.”
The Los Angeles Times added in 2015: “Smith’s side-arm pitches should continue to bedazzle opposing hitters. The Angels hope that provides enough late-inning security to make the advance to the World Series a reality this year.”
3. Smith Has a 50% Chance of Inheriting Huntington’s Disease
Smith’s mom, Lee Smith, was diagnosed with Huntington’s disease in 2012. Three years ago, she went into a nursing home at just 59 years old.
The Mayo Clinic website defines Huntington’s disease as an “inherited disease that causes the progressive breakdown of nerve cells in the brain.”
The disease is incurable.
Smith, whose grandmother also had it and died from it in 2012, has a 50% chance of inheriting the disease.
Smith and LaForce have a foundation, HelpCureHD.org, which aims to help improve the quality of life for those affected by the disease by contributing financial, emotional and mental support while trying to find a cure.
“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 told MLB.com in February. “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.”
4. Smith and LaForce Married in 2015, and She Often Gushes About Him On Social Media
Smith and LaForce married in January 2015 at University Circle United Methodist Church in Cleveland, Ohio.
Smith and LaForce met in 2011 when LaForce was working with FOX 8 in Cleveland when he with the Indians. They were engaged in 2013.
LaForce described dating a professional athlete in March 2014 to The Big League: “I would just say, be careful not to typecast everybody in the media who’s dating an athlete in the same category. All situations are completely different. It’s your personal life, you should be able to do what you want with it. I’m not the Indians or Angels beat reporter. I’m not in their locker room every day covering the team. Joe and I have an awesome relationship. We have similar travel schedules. We have similar demands. We’re in the spotlight in similar ways. We both love sports. We talk about sports all day. It’s easy that we’re compatible and understand each other’s careers.”
5. Smith and LaForce Have Opened Up About Using Vitro Fertilization to Start a Family
Because of the risks that Smith carries Huntington’s disease, he and LaForce hope IVF will help them start a family.
Smith is able to undergo predictive testing, but both Smith and his sister have opted to leave it to fate.
“We have shifted our focus to IVF because I believe it is a cure. There’s nothing close right now that will take the HD gene out or get rid of it completely,” told the New York Post in February.
LaForce admitted in February that 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. Unlike most couples, they said they know it is rare they can afford the process.
“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.