Q&A with Joe Smith

Q&A with Joe Smith

Christmas is for the kids, they say; at least the commercial aspects of it are. And who among the Mets last season was regarded more as a kid than Joe Smith? At age 23, the rookie reliever wasn't the youngest Met, but he was treated that way, especially by the veteran pitchers, Tom Glavine, Billy Wagner, Aaron Sele, et al.

Smith, not yet a year removed from college pitching when he made his big league debut on Opening Night in St. Louis, produced an uneven season, spending some of his first full season as a professional with the Mets' Triple-A New Orleans. He experienced growing pains, of course. What rookie doesn't? Some of Smith's missteps had nothing to do with his sidearm delivery and how National League hitters dealt with it. Early on, his greatest enemy were New York City parking rules. He was ticketed four times -- three times in April and again after he had returned to the Mets from New Orleans in September. He was fined $425.

"New Orleans was a lot cheaper," he said, "because my car was at Shea."

With his truck parked safely -- and legally -- in Cincinnati last week, Smith shared some thoughts about Christmas and New York's parking rules -- in a Q&A with MLB.com.

MLB.com: How did you spend Christmas as a kid?

Smith: I always woke up early and woke up my parents. We'd open our presents and then go to my grandmother's [home] for more presents. We never opened presents the night before. I wanted to, but we always waited.

MLB.com: What is your favorite Christmas carol?

Smith: "Silent Night." I know the words. But only the first stanza.

MLB.com: And your favorite Christmas song?

Smith: I was going to say "Jingle Bells," but, honestly, it's "Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer." I don't think it's my grandmother's favorite.

MLB.com: What do you do for Christmas now? How do you spend the days leading up to the holiday and the days after the holiday, too?

Smith: Well, we do the same things pretty much each year. I've got some shopping done already. So that's one difference. I always waited until the 24th. I have more money now, so it takes me longer, so I started earlier. I was half done last week.

We're going to my Aunt Linda's house, not my grandmother's this year, so that's another difference. We all live pretty close around Cincinnati.

And ever since I was in high school, I'd go over to my friend's house -- Christmas Eve, Christmas night or both -- and he and I and his mother and sister would play board games. We've been playing "Scene It," that movie game. His dad gets involved when we start to play cards for quarters. I guess that is kind of a tradition with us now.

MLB.com: Do you do your own shopping?

Smith: Always. I have since I was old enough to have my own money. I don't mind it.

MLB.com: Do you sleep the night before?

Smith: Each year I sleep a little longer. I stay at my buddy's place pretty late, so I might not get up until nine or 10. It used to be earlier. I must be growing up, right?

MLB.com: It's Christmas for how many in your home?

Smith: It's the four of us -- my parents, my sister and me. But we see most of the family on Christmas Day.

MLB.com: Do you leave a snack for Santa Claus?

Smith: Doesn't everybody? Cookies and milk.

MLB.com: Are crumbs left behind the next morning?

Smith: Yeah.

MLB.com: Who do you think really eats the cookies?

Smith: I always thought Santa did. Doesn't he?

MLB.com: Have you been to New York City at Christmas time?

Smith: I haven't. But everyone tells me I should go. It's supposed to be cool. But I'm not driving there. Parking illegally is expensive. But parking legally isn't cheap either.

MLB.com: If you had a choice and a chance to give a present to anyone outside your family and friends, who would it be and what would the gift be?

Smith: I'd send cards to all the cops who wrote those tickets I got. I think I still have a return envelope. Where is that? I need that address.

MLB.com: And what do you want for Christmas?

Smith: A call from Carrie Underwood [the country singer] and an invitation to go on "The Best Damn Sports Show."

MLB.com: Does Miss Underwood have your number?

Smith: I don't know why she would. But she's Carrie Underwood. I'm sure she can get it.

MLB.com: And what would you do if she called?

Smith: I don't know. Call back on the 26th. I'll let you know then.

MLB.com: So you wouldn't ask for another foot on your fastball?

Smith: Which would I have a better chance of getting -- the call or the extra foot?

MLB.com: I don't know if Santa knows Carrie.

MLB.com: Do you have a message to share at this time of year?

Smith: Sure. Be happy and enjoy your holidays.

MLB.com: Thanks Joe. Have a Merry Christmas.

Smith: Have a good Christmas, too.

Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.