MLB Trade Brings Relief Pitcher Closer to His Mother, a Huntington's Disease Patient

Mathew Shanley

Typically, moves on Major League Baseball (MLB) trade deadline day are made with the intention of putting World Series contenders in a better position to win.
The Toronto Blue Jays, however, traded relief pitcher Joe Smith to his hometown Cleveland Indians for a more genuine and compassionate reason: he requested to be closer to his mother, a Huntington’s disease (HD) patient.
HD is both genetic and neurodegenerative, and the disorder has overwhelming physical, psychological and cognitive consequences on its patients. An abnormal involuntary movement disorder known as chorea is the principal physical symptom. Smith’s mother Lee was diagnosed with the condition in 2012.
“She would feel guilty pulling me away,” Smith said to the Los Angeles Times. “She wants to me play baseball and win a World Series. At the same time, I want to be by her. She wants me close, but she would never say that.”
Just last week, Smith was in Cleveland to participate in the Athletes + Causes charity event, one that raised money for an array of organizations led by some of the city’s most notable athletes, including his foundation, Help Cure HD. On Tuesday, he returns home for good, or at least the remainder of the Major League season.
As baseball goes, Smith is much better set up to win a World Series in Cleveland than he was in Toronto. The trade moves him from the bottom-of-the-barrel Blue Jays in the American League (AL) East to the AL Central-leading Indians. There, he’ll join All-Star relief pitcher Andrew Miller to fortify an already-strong bullpen.

Lee Smith: Living with Huntington's Disease from Dadada Media on Vimeo.

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