After mom diagnosed, Astros' Joe Smith faces 50/50 future with Huntington's disease

WEST PALM BEACH, Florida (KTRK) -- Joe Smith couldn't believe his good fortune.

"It was pretty cool to see when it came down to the end. 'Alright, we're going to the Astros.' Dang, we're good. I was like, 'Oh, we signed that guy? Oh, we traded for Gerrit Cole, alright,'" Smith said.

The Astros newest reliever comes to Houston with postseason experience and a desire to be part of something special. He also arrives with a passion and a purpose that's deeply personal.

His mother has Huntington's disease.

"It's a neurological disease. It is hereditary. You have a 50/50 chance of getting it, so you may or you may not....pass it down to your children," Smith explained.

Huntington's is an obscure disease that affects about 30,000 people in the United States. Smith says the disease is like a mixture of Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and dementia wrapped up in one.

Trying to raise awareness, Smith explains how the unrelenting disease that attacks his mom every day. She stopped driving when she was 56. She can no longer fold clothes, get dressed or shower.

Smith won't say it, but the leaders of the fight against Huntington's disease will.

The Astros pitcher has energized the fight to find a cure. He did it by baring his soul and sharing the moment he learned his mom faced the disease and its crippling effects.

Because he had watched his grandmother live with Huntington's, Smith knew what his mom faced. He also lives with those 50/50 odds that some day he'll be stricken.

"I try not to think about it. Just live my life and have fun," Smith said. "I mean, I still get to come out here and play baseball every day. That definitely helps getting away from that."

It also energizes him to fight on, to beat a disease with no known cure. Help could be on the horizon with a new drug that attacks Huntington's like nothing before it.

It's all so deeply personal. Joe Smith arrived with a passion and a purpose. And a hero. A reason to fight every day.
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