MINNEAPOLIS — He broke his silence about retirement on Wednesday and while Adam LaRoche has apparently been in some dangerous places, he’s in a comfortable one now.
While the White Sox were surprised to learn Wednesday that last offseason LaRoche wore a hidden camera and worked undercover in Southeast Asian brothels in hopes of rescuing underage sex slaves, reliever Zach Duke knew about his long-time teammate’s work revealed in an ESPN The Magazine story.
Duke said Wednesday he has remained in contact with LaRoche, who abruptly retired from the White Sox last month.
He also said that LaRoche is at peace with the decision to retire early and forgo a $13 million salary. In the story, LaRoche told former teammate Blaine Boyer, who also participated in the undercover work, that he didn’t know how he could return to baseball after all that he had witnessed.
“He’s in a good place,” Duke said. “I knew eventually (LaRoche) was going to move on. But I didn’t expect it this soon. But where he’s at, his perspective on life, it’s a decision he was comfortable with.”
The White Sox are pleased with how they’ve handled the situation within the clubhouse after a tenuous week that included players speaking out against management and also weighing whether or not to boycott a game.
Aside from the March 18 statement he issued, LaRoche hadn’t spoken out until the interview he granted ESPN last month. LaRoche not only revealed he has no plans to file a grievance with the Major League Baseball Players Association, but also his work for The Exodus Road, which on its web site describes itself as a “growing nonprofit which focuses on bringing strategic solutions to the counter-trafficking movement.
White Sox manager Robin Ventura didn’t know about LaRoche’s offseason activities until he read the story — “it was news to everybody,” he said. Meanwhile, general manager Rick Hahn said he’s pleased with how his team has moved on and didn’t want to discuss whether or not the first baseman had violated his contract.
“At this point, I don’t think there’s really any benefit to rehashing old stories,” Hahn said. “We’ve made a point of saying we’ve turned the page as an organization. The clubhouse has made it clear they turned the page both with their words as well as how they have performed on the field. At this point, the most important matter at hand for us is beating the Twins tonight and that’s where everybody’s focus in that clubhouse is right now.”
Duke played alongside LaRoche on the Pittsburgh Pirates, Washington Nationals and the White Sox. He said LaRoche’s interest in working for Exodus Road had increased over the years and he’s now a member of the organization’s board. Even though he knew how dangerous his work was, Duke said LaRoche is committed to the project.
“The brothels are run by some pretty bad organizations, so you can get yourself in some hot water real quick,” Duke said. “It’s something for him that has come on in the last couple of years. He’s grown deeper in his faith with God and he’s so compassionate for other people.
“It’s definitely a passion of his. It’s something that everything he touches seems to do real well because he seems to put a lot of work into it. He’s having a great effect on a lot of people.”
Duke agreed with Ventura’s assessment that players are unified and focused on the field. As Ventura noted, “it’s not personal,” players just needed to worry about baseball. Duke said he’ll continue to keep in contact with LaRoche, who told ESPN he and his family intend to travel indefinitely on the West Coast, including perhaps Alaska.
“It’s one of those situations where we’ve been forced to move on and Adam made his decision,” Duke said. “He’s happy, so we’re finding a way to move on.”