Much has changed in the life of former Chicago White Sox first baseman Adam LaRoche since the end of the 2015 MLB season — some might say for the worse. LaRoche would say for the better.
LaRoche made national news when, in March of this year, he decided to walk away from baseball and his $13 million contract with the White Sox. Originally, several sources reported that the only reason behind this was a dispute with the White Sox management over LaRoche’s 14-year-old son, Drake. Drake often accompanied his father in the White Sox clubhouse, but, a few months before the season was to start, White Sox president Ken Williams told LaRoche that Drake’s visits needed to be regulated.
LaRoche, who had been bringing Drake to various MLB clubhouses with him for the majority of his career, then made the decision to walk away from baseball. Following the incident, LaRoche made this statement to his teammates:
“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.”
Some originally thought this was the only reason for LaRoche’s early retirement from the MLB, but then other sources, including ESPN’s Tim Keown, revealed a different potential source of the decision.
In November 2015, LaRoche and Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Blaine Boyer teamed up with the Christian organization called the Exodus Road, and traveled to Southeast Asia for a 10-day undercover mission (featured in the video below, via ABC News). While on the other side of the world, LaRoche and Boyer wore hidden cameras and did undercover work at Southeast Asian brothels, trying to help rescue underage sex slaves.
“Something huge happened there for us,” Boyer said in an interview with ESPN. “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.'”
After returning from their undercover mission, both Boyer and LaRoche felt uncomfortable returning to the U.S. and to the MLB — to safety when so many underaged children weren’t safe in Southeast Asia. LaRoche reflected on this uneasiness to Keown:
“I was sick,” he said to ESPN. “I was thinking about my kids and then thinking about the hundreds of thousands of parents who are searching for their 12-year-old daughters.”
LaRoche is a devout Christian and has been vocal about his faith during the course of his 12-year MLB career. At the several different places he played baseball — Atlanta, Pittsburgh, Boston, Arizona, Washington and Chicago — LaRoche has helped promote “Faith Day.” Faith Day is a once-a-year event that invites Christian baseball fans to watch a game and usually stay for a worship concert and players’ personal testimonies of faith afterward.
Before the White Sox Faith Day in 2015, LaRoche made this statement about the importance of his faith and this event:
“As a believer, [faith] 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.”
On June 6 during the K-Love Fan Awards in Nashville, Tennessee, LaRoche won the Sports Impact Award for his work on and off the field for Christ. Former winners of the award include Nashville Predators center Mike Fisher and Carolina Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis.
Others nominated for the 2016 award included Kansas City Royals GM Dayton Moore, University of North Carolina women’s basketball coach Sylvia Hatchell and University of Miami football coach Mark Richt.
To read the full ESPN story on LaRoche, click HERE. To see the full lineup of K-Love Fan Award winners, click HERE. LaRoche currently lives in Phoenix with his wife, Jenn, and his two kids — Drake, 14, and Montana, 12.