Smith revels in 'Amazing' experience
Third-base coach competes with daughter on reality-TV race
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The lure of winning a million bucks had to be appealing, even if the odds seemed insurmountable.The temptation to be on TV? Nonexistent, really. The thrill of traveling to foreign lands? Sure, that sounded pretty sweet. But for third-base coach Steve Smith, these reasons, which some people might cite as their incentives to be on the CBS reality show "The Amazing Race," were nothing compared to the simple goal of building up a father-daughter bond. Smith, following a World Series win as a member of the Phillies' coaching staff in 2008, was unemployed last season. His 23-year-old daughter, Allie, thought her dad's rare sabbatical might be the perfect time to apply for the show. "My son [Garrett] was always with me in the dugouts and at the ballpark," Smith said. "He was actually in uniform and in the dugout when we won the Series. My daughter wasn't jealous of it, but it was like, 'You have a story with him, Dad. I want a story with you.' So I went for it." He went for it not expecting to be selected. "I was just trying to be a good dad," he said. But the producers of the show, perhaps intrigued by the coach's baseball background and/or enamored with the father-daughter dynamic, selected the Smiths to be one of 11 teams on the show's 16th season, which began airing on Feb. 14. On the show, the teams of two follow clues and race around the world using various forms of transportation. The short-term goal is to avoid being the last team to reach each episode's "pit stop," which can lead to elimination. The long-term goal is to be the first team to reach the final stop, because that comes with a $1 million prize. Filming for the latest season began last fall, mere days after Smith signed on to join manager Manny Acta's staff as the Tribe's third-base and infield coach. Suddenly, Smith realized some of the implications of his endeavor.
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"When you're coaching third base, you're out there [near the fans]," Smith said. "If you do something stupid on the show, you're never going to hear the end of it."But Smith, 57, knew his baseball career could also come in handy. He had played seven seasons as a Minor Leaguer in the Padres system in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and, over the past 25 years, he had been a coach or manager at the Major or Minor League levels for the Padres, Mariners, Brewers, Rangers and Phils. Along the way he learned a thing or two about performing under duress. "I had been in the Minors for 20 years on buses and not getting sleep and all that," he said. "And coaching third base, I've been under that kind of pressure where things are happening fast. It helps because I can calm down and relax a little bit and not panic." Then he joked, "The only time I was out of my element was when I had to use my brain." Smith's baseball smarts caught Acta's interest this offseason. Among other projects, the Indians are trying to tighten their infield defense, and Smith would appear to have the tools to help. Under his tutelage as an infield coach, Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez and Jimmy Rollins won a total of six Gold Glove Awards. When it comes to baseball, nothing in Smith's career compares with the experience of winning the '08 Series. "You grind every day, game by game, and you don't get to appreciate it until afterward," he said. "Then when you get a ring three or four months later, you look back and go, wow, that's a goal you had your whole life. It's well worth the wait. It was quite an experience." And yet, he said, the experience on "The Amazing Race" might have been just as, if not more, fulfilling, because it was definitely once-in-a-lifetime material. So how did Steve and Allie fare? Well, you'll have to tune in to the show, which airs at 8 p.m. ET on Sundays, to find out. Not even Smith's wife, Angie, knows the end result. Reality TV is a lot like jury duty that way. "We couldn't talk to her when we were on the race," Smith said. "She's watching it just like everybody else and saying, 'Did you win?' But our goal was to not be the first ones off." The viewing public already knows that the Smiths achieved that goal. Steve and Allie finished fourth and seventh, respectively, in the first two legs of the race, which took them to South America and had them completing such tasks as walking across a cable wire 120 feet above ground, painting a house and milking a cow. Though Smith can't say if he won the million, he can say he had a blast. "[Doing the show] was never about the money," he said. "It was just about enjoying the time. And to do it with my daughter was so special. It's the best thing I ever did. Not too many people can do this, and that's why they call it 'amazing,' because it was."
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.