Hollywood could not write a more compelling story than that of a Major League ballplayer becoming an undercover agent. Heck,
with all the sequels, and reboots being made today it’s safe to say movie-makers lack the creativity to come up with a story
like this. For those of you who don’t follow baseball, allow me to fill you in on the excellent career of southeast Kansas’
own Adam LaRoche. Born to former big-leaguer
Dave LaRoche, Adam (along with his brother, Andy) was destined to play in ‘The Show.’ After being an All-American in
high school, the Fort Scott native was drafted in 1998 (and again in 1999) by the Florida Marlins, but refused to sign. Adam
decided to go to college, and went on to win MVP of the Junior College World Series in 2000.
Adam was drafted in 2000 by the Atlanta Braves, where he would spend the next six years playing. After a few years in the
minors, Adam was called up by the Braves in 2004. Over the course of the next 12 years Adam would go on to play for the Pittsburgh
Pirates, Boston Red Sox, Atlanta Braves (again), Arizona Diamondbacks, Washington Nationals, and Chicago White Sox. Over
the course of his career the first-baseman hit 255 home runs, won a
gold glove, a
Silver Slugger Award, and a National League Wilson Defensive Player of the Year Award.
Aside from being a great ballplayer, LaRoche is also a devout Christian. While playing for the Washington Nationals, Adam
helped to promote “Faith Day” at Nationals Park along with several of his teammates. He would continue to promote “Faith
Day” on other teams later in his career, as well. In fact, his faith may have played a huge part as to why he walked away
from the game he loves. Before the White Sox 2015 “Faith Day” game, LaRoche spoke briefly on the day’s importance:
“As a believer, it is and should be the most important thing in our lives, so to be able to get up briefly and share that
is an honor. And the fact that the White Sox allow it is great because some teams try to shy away from things like that
and any type of (potential) controversy.
Before the 2016 season started, Laroche was making headlines for causing some controversy that would lead to his departure
from the White Sox organization, and Major League Baseball itself. For years Laroche had brought his son into the clubhouse
every day, and had never had any problems.
“I never took it for granted. You could have a manager who just flat doesn’t like it. You can have players complain — ‘Hey,
we’re tired of having a kid around.’ There’s a chance we could have other guys see Drake and think, ‘I’ll bring my kid
too.’ Obviously we can’t turn this into a day care. I get it.”
After 12 years, someone on LaRoche’s team told management they no longer wanted the slugger to bring his son to work. Prior
to the 2016 season, the White Sox informed Adam that his son would no longer be welcome in the clubhouse on a day-to-day
basis. Here is what White Sox president Ken Williams told baseball expert Ken Rosenthal:
The argument could be made (for good reason) that a locker room is no place to bring a child. Adam even says as much, but
explains why he wants his son around:
“There’s no other workplace where you walk in and guys are slapping each other in the nuts and saying the stuff they do.
You can say, ‘That’s no place for a kid to be. The way I see it, he’s going to be around that regardless, unless you homeschool
and raise them in a bubble. I can’t think of a better place for him to be when he gets a taste of that than with me.”
Adam, who has a very close relationship with his 14-year-old son, Drake, saw only one option: walk away from his $13 million
deal with the White Sox, and retire from Major League Baseball. That was the story the White Sox were told, and for the most
part, everyone believed it. LaRoche made the following announcement to his team after being informed of the club’s new policy
in regards to children being around the locker room:
“I am choosing my son over you guys. I cannot tell you how much I hate that I’m even having to make this decision, and how
much it crushes me to feel like I could be leaving you guys hanging.”
That seems pretty straightforward, until you take a deeper look at Adam LaRoche’s life. He has never been one to conform
to societal norms. For better, or worse (probably worse) Adam says he isn’t as concerned with his kids’ grades, choosing
to focus on “How are they treating their classmates, and how are they treating [the teacher]?” That’s just a glimpse into
what Adam values as important. Over the years, many things have come in and taken priority over baseball, including family,
and faith. Many aren’t aware, but Laroche has a lot going on outside of baseball. He’s one of the co-owners of Outdoor Network’s
Buck Commander, along with former teammate Chipper Jones (and Willie Robertson of
Duck Dynasty), and a host of other ballplayers/celebrities, but that’s not even close to the most interesting thing
Laroche does in his free time (he also runs a cattle ranch).
This was recently reported by ESPN’s Tim Keown, and it might give some insight into the real reason for Laroche’s retirement:
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? … Working through a nonprofit called the Exodus Road, LaRoche and Boyer conducted surveillance in brothels
and tried to determine the age of the girls — known only by numbers pinned to bikinis — and identify their bosses. “Something
huge happened there for us,” Boyer says. “You can’t explain it. Can’t put your finger on it. If you make a wrong move,
you’re getting tossed off a building. We were in deep, man, but that’s the way it needed to be done. Adam and I truly believe
God brought us there and said, ‘This is what I have for you boys.’”
That’s right, last fall LaRoche, along with fellow big-leaguer Blaine Boyer, went undercover in Southeast Asia to rescue
underage sex slaves from local brothels. Let that sink in for a minute. A pair of white professional athletes went undercover
in an effort to rescue children from sex slavery.
How many of you would step away from $13 million dollars? Most people would have a difficult time doing that, but Adam Laroche
isn’t like most people. While it was assumed that he retired because of reasons stemming from his son not being allowed in
the clubhouse, this new information throws a wrinkle into that theory. When asked if he would attempt to recoup the $13 million
he was set to make in 2016, Adam stated plainly, “No. I did it. I made the final decision.” Clearly, money isn’t the motivating
factor for LaRoche.
“I can understand how people look at the $13 million. One, how stupid does somebody have to be? Or, how selfish? Suck it
up for six months, right?”
Stupid might not be the right word, but that is an awful lot of money to walk away from, over something as small as not being
able to bring your kid to work. Did the trip to the brothels have that much of an impact on LaRoche? Perhaps the former big-leaguer
has his sights set on new horizons. Maybe he feels as though God is calling him to something different. Maybe we are overanalyzing,
and he simply wants to hang out with his kid more, and spend his free time hunting, and fishing with his buddies.
Maybe all of those factors played a part in LaRoche’s decision to hang it up. I simply refuse to believe the “Rich Man Quits
Over Son” narrative because that’s not the type of guy LaRoche seems to be. In regards to bringing his kid to work, Adam
says he was always upfront with his employers:
“I would go to those managers every year. I would tell them, ‘Listen, if there’s ever an issue, specifically if a player
comes up to you, you’ve got to let me know.'”
LaRoche isn’t an unreasonable man. Perhaps, for the first time, he saw the difference he could make in the world WITHOUT
having to hit a ball. Maybe God has enormous plans for this small-town slugger, turned sex-slave recovery operative.
Whatever his plans for the future, we wish Adam LaRoche good luck! With all the athletes that attract negative headlines,
it’s refreshing to be reminded that excellent role-models still exist in American sports. God bless you, Adam LaRoche!