Before Adam LaRoche’s story took on a life of its own this spring … before the 36-year-old ballplayer decided to retire, leaving millions of dollars on the table, because the White Sox didn’t want him bringing his 14-year-old son, Drake, to the ballpark anymore … before millions of people had an opinion about all of this …
There were two old friends and neighbors, sitting around, trying to figure out what to do. LaRoche was one, and Blaine Boyer — a relief pitcher with the Twins last season and a current member of the Brewers — was the other.
The two have been tight since 2000, nearly half their lives, when the Braves drafted both of them — Boyer in the third round, LaRoche more of a long shot in the 29th round.
“He’s a brother to me,” Boyer said last week when the Brewers were in town to face the Twins. “We’ve been close. Our families are close. My kids love his kids. Our wives are close. We’re just good buddies.”
Boyer became a sounding board — privy to the ins and outs of a decision LaRoche wrestled with well before he made it public.
“I asked him originally, before he even really got serious about this, ‘Do you want me to just let you make your mind up on your own and I’ll support you no matter what? Or do you want me to be that devil’s advocate type?’ ” Boyer said.
“He very much wanted to hash it out. So we just had some really good conversations over a stretch of a week, week and a half.”
Given the choice of spending time at the ballpark or with his family — but not both at once, as he had become accustomed to with Drake — LaRoche ultimately chose the latter. Boyer said he was proud of his friend and thought the decision was “very well-done.” Plenty of others disagreed.
“It’s so frustrating to hear [the backlash] that he’s getting. It doesn’t make any sense to me. I feel like people are acting as if this is up for debate or that he was complaining,” Boyer said. “People say, ‘Oh, I wish I could take my kids to work with me, too,’ but that’s not even the subject here. This was a decision he made.”
Interestingly, it was a decision with roots even deeper than this past spring. Boyer and LaRoche worked in the offseason with an organization called Exodus Road, and their mission — one that Boyer believes came from God — was going undercover to rescue underage victims of sex trafficking in Asia.
They found themselves in a few very dangerous situations, ones that tend to give a person perspective about playing a game for a living.
“In a way, on paper, we knew what we were getting into,” Boyer said. “But it was a shocking experience.”
They plan to do it again next offseason and beyond — though for LaRoche, all there is now is offseason.
“I’m not far behind him, either,” Boyer said with a chuckle, though he’s been effective in eight outings for the Brewers this year.
“We’re all in kind of the same phase of life right now.”