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.

Chants do it with defense for second straight week

Chants do it with defense for second straight weekNot even a 44-minute lightning delay midway through the third [more]

Week 3: MB, CF roll to set up battle of undefeateds

Week 3: MB, CF roll to set up battle of undefeatedsJon "JJ" Jones returned to his old stomping grounds at [more]

Wednesday's Roundup: SJ girls go low to beat Braves

Wednesday's Roundup: SJ girls go low to beat BravesSt. James traveled to Prestwick Country Club on Wednesday to [more]

MB transfer cleared just in time to face former school

MB transfer cleared just in time to face former schoolMyrtle Beach football player J.J. Jones has been cleared to [more]

Tuesday Roundup: Wins for CF golf, NMB volleyball

Tuesday Roundup: Wins for CF golf, NMB volleyballThe reigning Class 4A state champion North Myrtle Beach High [more]

Games go on after Dorian throws schedules for loop

Games go on after Dorian throws schedules for loopDespite Hurricane Dorian costing Horry County Schools a week of [more]

Chants capture historic victory over Jayhawks

Chants capture historic victory over JayhawksCoastal Carolina football recorded its first-ever win over a Power [more]

Who's No. 1? Two teams atop latest football polls

Who's No. 1? Two teams atop latest football polls Like it did after last year’s state championship games, Horry [more]

Hurricane Dorian calls halt to Strand sports schedule

Hurricane Dorian calls halt to Strand sports scheduleHurricane Dorian is not expected to make landfall on the [more]

Coast U-19 girls pass early test, take Atlanta Cup title

Coast U-19 girls pass early test, take Atlanta Cup titleCoach R.J. Bass wanted a strong early test for his [more]

Eastern Michigan spoils Coastal's season opener

Eastern Michigan spoils Coastal's season opener The Coastal Carolina Chanticleers opened their season the same way [more]

Week 1: Historic win for SJ; MB, CF roll in openers

Week 1: Historic win for SJ; MB, CF roll in openersTommy Norwood tried to nix the Gatorade bath. He raised [more]

Welch wins World Am in East/West Coast shootout

Welch wins World Am in East/West Coast shootoutWilliam Welch (West Islip, N.Y.) shot a net 69 (gross [more]

Golf: CF packs 1-2 punch; St. James claims tri-match

Golf: CF packs 1-2 punch; St. James claims tri-matchThe Carolina Forest girls golf team made a strong showing [more]

Chiefs reach Border Battle finale, swept by Warriors

Chiefs reach Border Battle finale, swept by WarriorsThe Palmetto State made a strong showing in the Border [more]

Perfect conditions greet thousands for World Am

Perfect conditions greet thousands for World AmBeautiful weather greeted the 3,215 golfers participating in the 36th [more]

Two Coast FA boys teams crowned Triangle champs

Two Coast FA boys teams crowned Triangle champsTwo Coast FA boys teams returned home as champions from [more]

Week 0: Chiefs top Tigers; Sharks beat Lions at horn

Week 0: Chiefs top Tigers; Sharks beat Lions at hornMatt Reel sighed more than once when talking about his [more]

Six former Pelicans make big-league leap to Cubs

Six former Pelicans make big-league leap to Cubs The distance from Myrtle Beach’s TicketReturn.com Stadium to Chicago’s Wrigley [more]

Chiefs try to stay hungry, humble in title repeat bid

Chiefs try to stay hungry, humble in title repeat bidThe only thing harder than winning a state championship is [more]

Stormy weather big winner at CNB Kickoff Classic

Stormy weather big winner at CNB Kickoff ClassicTwo blowouts, a lightning delay and ultimately three of the [more]

Coast FA boys kick off fall season with strong outing

Coast FA boys kick off fall season with strong outingFive Coast FA boys teams entered the Charlotte Invitational over [more]

Hemingway follows family, teammates to Gamecocks

Hemingway follows family, teammates to GamecocksSix minutes after his youngest child had announced his college [more]

MB Track & Field Club set for cross country season

MB Track & Field Club set for cross country seasonBuilding on the success of the track and field season, [more]

Seahawks, Trojans, Chiefs in preseason football poll

Seahawks, Trojans, Chiefs in preseason football pollDefending state champion Myrtle Beach opened the 2019 preseason as [more]

Chants do it with defense for second straight week

Chants do it with defense for second straight weekNot even a 44-minute lightning delay midway through the third [more]

Week 3: MB, CF roll to set up battle of undefeateds

Week 3: MB, CF roll to set up battle of undefeatedsJon "JJ" Jones returned to his old stomping grounds at [more]

Comments are closed.

© 2019 Grand Strand Sports Report · RSS
Myrtle Beach Web Design
Kayaking in Myrtle Beach