WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- There's Justin Verlander and his wife, Kate Upton. Carlos Correa and his fiancee, Daniella Rodriguez. There's Lance McCullers and his wife, Kara. And now the Astros have to make room for another power couple.
Veteran relief pitcher Joe Smith, who signed a two-year, $15 million deal in December, is married to Allie LaForce, a former beauty queen who's a reporter and anchor for CBS Sports and Turner Sports, covering Southeastern Conference college games. She's also a courtside reporter for college basketball games and the NBA on TNT, and currently working the NCAA Tournament.
Smith and LaForce, who were married in January 2015, 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.
"I'm a homebody, but every once in a while, I'll make one trip a year in the offseason," he said.
That said, LaForce said she makes sure those who work with her regularly know what Smith is up to.
"They all feel like they know each other even though they haven't really met or talked very much," she said. "I'll say, 'Come and meet my friends.'"
LaForce welcomes feedback on her work from Smith, but he tries to avoid talking baseball with LaForce, which is hard. LaForce loves to pry him about what he was saying to the catcher and other in-game chatter that occurred.
"You deal with it so much and we're here for a 7 o'clock game and you're getting to the yard at 2 [p.m.] and leaving at 11, so I kind of like leaving it there," he said. "Of course, she'll still want to talk about it for a little bit. I've gotten a little better. I'll talk to her for a little bit and then it's like, 'Alright, let's talk about something else.'"
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."