Last month Adam LaRoche’s retirement distracted baseball for a week. The circumstances of it — he was asked not to bring his son Drake to the clubhouse all the time — were strange and his decision seemed remarkably abrupt. People spent so much time focusing on the Drake LaRoche part of it all that they didn’t really think too hard of the Adam LaRoche part of it. What makes that guy tick that he’d walk away from $13 million over such an odd little dispute?
Today, in ESPN the Magazine, Tim Keown takes us into LaRoche’s world. And it’s a weird world. On the one hand there are a lot of the trappings we’ve come to expect from an American ballplayer from a decidedly non-urban area. Bow hunting, family, friendships with country singers and “Duck Dynasty” cast members and the like. A quote about how the clubhouse is sacred because “there’s no other workplace where you walk in and guys are slapping each other in the nuts and saying the stuff they do,” which I figure is a good thing, but who knows?
Then there is . . . the unexpected:
Then there’s this: LaRoche, along with Brewers pitcher Blaine Boyer, spent 10 days in November in Southeast Asian brothels, wearing a hidden camera and doing undercover work to help rescue underage sex slaves. All of which raises a question: After 12 years in the big leagues, the endless days and nights in dugouts and clubhouses, how did LaRoche’s nearly cinematic level of nonconformity escape detection?
The details of that operation are in the story. It’s definitely something.
Aside from just that, the whole piece has a McNulty-from-the-Wire “who the f*** was I chasing?” air to it. And there are great details, such as the fact that, after Ken Williams told LaRoche to “dial back” the presence of Drake in the clubhouse, LaRoche and his buddy Boyer went over his decision to retire “with the help of a bottle of Crown Royal . . . while Boyer cross-examined.” To be a fly on that wall.
Fascinating piece about a guy who, even if we still don’t fully understand him or his decision, is pretty interesting all the same.