LaRoche still the same kid he was with the Pelicans

col-tbuzz-2The big news story in baseball this week was the sudden retirement of Chicago White Sox designated hitter Adam LaRoche over the team’s request that he not bring his 14-year-old son, Drake, to the ballpark so often. It was a big story to me for a different reason.

It was only 16 years ago that La Roche showed up as a fresh-faced rookie to the Class A Myrtle Beach Pelicans, and I was covering the second-year franchise. March was a magical time for the players and reporters as a new group of 25 hopefuls were assigned to Myrtle Beach. That meant at least 25 new stories for reporters, and maybe one or two future major leaguers.

It was clear from the start that LaRoche was going to be one of those players that made it to the big leagues. It wasn’t his funky lefthanded swing, which the Atlanta Braves tried to correct before telling him to return to his unorthodox but effective stroke. It certainly wasn’t his 29th-round draft status, which shows what scouts and teams thought about his odds. Instead, it was his passion on the diamond that was tempered by a calm demeanor off it – a key combination for rookies.

Although many misconstrued his ADHD diagnosis for him being slow and a bit off, LaRoche was smart beyond his years. One of the funniest things I saw every year was the disparity between the money paid to bonus-baby draft picks and longshot signees. The top picks drove brand new sports cars or Hummers, which were parked right beside the second-hand rides of other players. LaRoche used his money to buy a pickup truck, bass boat and a large lakefront lot of land in his hometown back in Kansas.

“If I get cut or blow out my arm tomorrow, I can always go back home and hunt and fish,” LaRoche said in a paraphrased conversation in the clubhouse. You could tell he meant it. Unlike many of the talented players around him that season, LaRoche didn’t seem to feel the same pressure as the others, or at least he didn’t show it. And the mental game is what cuts more careers short than the physical. A hitting slump could mentally bury a kid under an avalanche of batting tips and fears about the future.

Perhaps the reason LaRoche not only reached but lasted this long in the big leagues is because of his upbringing. His father, journeyman pitcher Bob LaRoche, used to take Adam with his to the ballpark every day. He grew up around some of the top players from the 1980s and ’90s, so making it to the majors wasn’t some abstract obstacle he had to climb. It was certainly a goal that seemed attainable to him, and one that he wanted to share with his son, Drake. What a wonderful childhood.

But the White Sox’s decision to tell LaRoche to cut back on Drake’s time with the team struck a nerve with LaRoche, and I can easily see him passing up the $13 million he was set to be paid this season to spend more time with his kid. And I don’t really blame the White Sox for trying to set some guidelines about how much time a player can bring their kids around the field and clubhouse. After all, it is a big business and not a day-care center, so they have a right to set some rules.

But it shows the way the game has changed over the past generation, and how players like LaRoche are a threatened species in the dugout. The dream childhood he got to experience as the son of a player no longer exists, lost to a changing culture in major league baseball that puts the bottom line above family ties. LaRoche was brave enough to walk away from millions to be a daddy instead of a DH, and it doesn’t surprise me that he would do it given his unique perspective on playing baseball.

It isn’t just a game anymore; it’s a business. It takes a special type of player to know the difference, and LaRoche qualifies given his principled stance to give up the game he loves. Despite his rapid rise through the baseball ranks to the big leagues, LaRoche is still the same good-natured kid who loved to go fishing and hunting when he was a nobody with the Myrtle Beach Pelicans. I am honored I got the chance to know him, and hope to be the same kind of father and person.

Comments

comments

Coastal's Pierrot picked in second round of MLS draft

Coastal's Pierrot picked in second round of MLS draftAfter a career which saw him named the Sun Belt [more]

NMB boys, girls suffer first region setbacks at Wilson

NMB boys, girls suffer first region setbacks at WilsonThe North Myrtle Beach High boys and girls basketball teams [more]

CF girls blow out Knights; boys lose to WF at buzzer

CF girls blow out Knights; boys lose to WF at buzzerDespite the ice-cold weather outside, the Carolina Forest girls basketball [more]

CCU Hoops: Chants suffer sixth straight loss at USA

CCU Hoops: Chants suffer sixth straight loss at USAThe Coastal Carolina men's basketball team suffered their sixth consecutive [more]

Conway sweeps Socastee; NMB, SJ games postponed

Conway sweeps Socastee; NMB, SJ games postponedThe Conway High boys and girls basketball teams swept visiting [more]

Boys Hoops: Green breaks CA record; Braves beat CF

Boys Hoops: Green breaks CA record; Braves beat CFChristian Academy of Myrtle Beach junior Michael Green reached another [more]

Lady Panthers' second-half surge knocks off Socastee

Lady Panthers' second-half surge knocks off SocasteeThe Carolina Forest High girls basketball team broke up a [more]

Coastal adds Michigan OL transfer to recruiting class

Coastal adds Michigan OL transfer to recruiting classCoastal Carolina head football coach Joe Moglia announced Sean Fitzgerald, [more]

Earnhardt clears air about interest in buying Panthers

Earnhardt clears air about interest in buying PanthersRetired NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. says he is interested [more]

CCU's Ruiz picked to play in Latin America Amateur

CCU's Ruiz picked to play in Latin America AmateurCoastal Carolina junior golfer Luis Ruiz has been selected to [more]

CAC swimmers clean up on medals at Tiger Invitational

CAC swimmers clean up on medals at Tiger InvitationalThe Coastal Aquatic Club (CAC) sent 37 swimmers to compete [more]

MB grad Sessions waived during 11th NBA season

MB grad Sessions waived during 11th NBA seasonFor the first time since his high school days at [more]

Horry/Georgetown Invite: CF, NMB, MB finish 1-2-3

Horry/Georgetown Invite: CF, NMB, MB finish 1-2-3The Carolina Forest High wrestling team captured the bi-county championship [more]

Battle at the Beach: MB makes it rain 3s; CA falls

Battle at the Beach: MB makes it rain 3s; CA fallsOn Friday night, a leaky roof forced the Myrtle Beach [more]

CCU Hoops: Coastal splits with visiting Georgia State

CCU Hoops: Coastal splits with visiting Georgia StateArtur Labinowicz scored a career, team and game-high 32 points, [more]

Hoops: Chiefs, Tigers use last-second shots for wins

Hoops: Chiefs, Tigers use last-second shots for winsNorth Myrtle Beach High's Cooper Chandler picked the right time [more]

MB Winter Bump tourney expects record crowd, field

MB Winter Bump tourney expects record crowd, fieldThe annual Myrtle Beach Winter Bump Volleyball Classic, hosted by [more]

Knaffle garners SCCAWS Player of the Year award

Knaffle garners SCCAWS Player of the Year awardSt. James High junior Smith Knaffle may need to add [more]

CCU Hoops: Chants split Sun Belt twinbill with GSU

CCU Hoops: Chants split Sun Belt twinbill with GSUJaylen Shaw moved into 13th place on the Coastal Carolina [more]

North Myrtle Beach boys, girls cruise past St. James

North Myrtle Beach boys, girls cruise past St. JamesThe North Myrtle Beach boys and girls basketball teams swept [more]

Wrestling: Locals earn top rankings; Chiefs take two

Wrestling: Locals earn top rankings; Chiefs take twoThe latest rankings were released Tuesday for SCHSL wrestling, but [more]

Boys Hoops: Socastee, Conway win region debuts

Boys Hoops: Socastee, Conway win region debutsThe Socastee High boys basketball team won a thrilling Region [more]

Girls Hoops: Seahawks knock off No. 1 Wilson

Girls Hoops: Seahawks knock off No. 1 WilsonThe Myrtle Beach High girls basketball team saw region rival [more]

CCU student-athletes post top semester in classroom

CCU student-athletes post top semester in classroom A record 264 Coastal Carolina student-athletes posted at least a [more]

Riptides make successful plunge at Polar Bear meet

Riptides make successful plunge at Polar Bear meetRiptides Racing's swimmers braved the cold weather and icy roads [more]

Coastal's Pierrot picked in second round of MLS draft

Coastal's Pierrot picked in second round of MLS draftAfter a career which saw him named the Sun Belt [more]

NMB boys, girls suffer first region setbacks at Wilson

NMB boys, girls suffer first region setbacks at WilsonThe North Myrtle Beach High boys and girls basketball teams [more]

Comments are closed.

© 2017 Grand Strand Sports Report · RSS
Myrtle Beach Web Design
Kayaking in Myrtle Beach