Athletics

How Esteban Loiaza went from A's pitcher to cocaine dealer, prison

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How Esteban Loiaza went from A's pitcher to cocaine dealer, prison

It’s a wild tale of a baseball player who had the world at his fingertips, only to now find himself in federal prison.

Two-time All-Star pitcher Esteban Loaiza spent his 14-year MLB career across eight teams, including 2006-07 with the A’s. He signed with the team on a three-year, $21.4 million contract after the 2005 season. He finished his campaign with Oakland hosting a 4.62 ERA and 1.376 WHIP.

It was around this time that he was arrested after clocking over 120 mph in his Ferrari on an Oakland-area freeway.

He would be convicted of reckless driving and was given a three-year probationary sentence.

This was where it appeared the player filled with so much promise took a turn, as was detailed in an incredible piece by Bleacher Report's Scott Miller.

"He was just a knucklehead guy with some decent stuff upon occasion," longtime Oakland radio broadcaster Vince Cotroneo told Bleacher Report. Cotroneo also called Texas Rangers games when Loaiza was there. "He wasn't a bad guy. He was always helpful for what we needed to do. He was a little quirky, but you can say that with a lot of people.

"I went to Oakland and so did he in '06,” Cotroneo added. “This was the Lamborghini-driving, Maserati-driving, DUI Loaiza that we got. The paint was starting to dry. You were starting to capture the full portrait of the guy. When he got to Oakland, it got stranger."

Fast forward to 2018, and Loaiza would be detained by sheriff’s detectives in the San Diego area several miles north of the Mexican border. Loaiza had been under surveillance for a while in a federal narcotics investigation. And while law enforcement didn’t find anything in his Mercedes-Benz SUV that day, they did discover a note in the garage door opener that had an address written on it.

That address led them to a nearby townhouse that possessed a minivan which held 44 pounds of cocaine hidden in the rear floor panels underneath baseball bags. 

[RELATED: A's should break protocol, sign Semien for long haul]

He ultimately was sentenced to 36 months in prison on March 8, 2019. 

Loaiza was with the White Sox at one point in his career, where he was dubbed a hero of sorts. He made his last public appearance at the team's Fan Fest in 2018 just two weeks before his arrest.

Ramón Laureano: Everything to know about A's do-it-all outfielder

Ramón Laureano: Everything to know about A's do-it-all outfielder

One positive thing that most of us reading this will ever have to do is we’ll never have to run on Ramón Laureano. We can thank our lucky stars for that.

The A’s centerfielder had possibly one of the best catches of the season in 2019 when -- well, just watch:

Shameless NBC Sports California plug aside, Laureano made it look easy, and not only on the catch. He also robbed Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto of a home run in the process.

So we know he can throw, he can hit and all of the typical baseball things, but what else?

The numbers

It has to be said we have yet to see the best of Laureano.

The 25-year-old slashed .288/.340/.521 last season which was good for an .860 OPS.

Then there’s that arm. 

Laureano is properly nicknamed “Lazor” for the way he’s able to dart a ball from the tippest point of centerfield to anywhere there was a runner attempting to get an extra bag.

It was one night in August 2018 against the Los Angeles Angels when an “Oh my god!” was shouted by NBC Sports California’s Dallas Braden on the broadcast to see Laureano throw from center TO FIRST BASE for a double play. At 321 feet, it had been the longest throw to complete a double play in the Statcast era.


The background

Born in the Dominican Republic, Laureano was drafted out of Northeast Oklahoma A&M in the 16th round by the Houston Astros in 2014 and was traded to the A’s in 2017 for minor leaguer Brandon Bailey. He made his A’s big league debut on Aug. 3, 2018, against Detroit. 

When Laureano was a younger prospect, he was compared to another Astros youngster Teoscar Hernandez in a scouting report by MLB Pipeline in 2017 but was said to be more of a “pure hitter,” with less power potential. He was also called an “above average defender,” which we already knew.

If you’re a fantasy baseball player, he’s also listed as a top-30 outfielder heading into the 2020 season.

Now for the important stuff

Long-time friend of Laureano, Ricky Rivera, gave me some details about the star-studded outfielder’s off-the-field hobbies.

During quarantine, Laureano picked up golf and really wanted to perfect his craft at video game MLB: The Show. He was playing the game a lot during quarantine to pass the time and had a group of eight or so guys get together and play. It sounds like it got quite competitive as well.

He’s also a dog lover, as Rivera described. Which at first, he didn’t think was a very random fact about Laureano, but we can all agree dog people are the best people.

[RELATED: A's hilariously sport Mike Fiers' facial hair facemask]

If you look anywhere on content written about Laureano, one notion that sticks out is his work ethic. In an interview with Rivera, who played with him at Northeast Oklahoma A&M, he said even though they were on the same team, Laureano would arrive at practice hours earlier. He was probably also the last one to leave.

“He’s always working out or talking baseball,” Rivera told NBC Sports California recently.

It shows. 

A's tentative 2021 MLB schedule includes Astros, Dodgers in opening week

A's tentative 2021 MLB schedule includes Astros, Dodgers in opening week

Before 2020’s regular season has officially begun, MLB announced the tentative schedules of all 30 clubs for next season on Thursday. The A’s open up the 2021 campaign at home against the Houston Astros on April 1.

This will also be the first time since 1968 all 30 teams will play their first game of the season on the same day.

For the most part, it will be regular-schedule programming for the A's with the AL West matchups against the Astros, Los Angeles Angels, Seattle Mariners, and Texas Rangers. 

But April will have the A’s also starting the season against the possibly Mookie Betts-less Los Angeles Dodgers right after their Houston home series then they head to Minute Maid Park directly after that. That’s quite a competitive sandwich. But the balls tend to fly there which is a boost for the A's. 

If things stay the same, which is never the case in baseball, there shouldn’t be too many surprises for Oakland next season as far as the competitive circuit goes. 

The Battle of Bay against the geographically rivaled Giants will take place three times in 2021. The first being an exhibition series, as the teams usually have, March 28-29. During the regular season, they will meet back at Oracle Park June 25-27 and later at the Coliseum Aug. 20-22. After that, the New York Yankees come to town to play Aug. 26-28 in Oakland. 

The A’s will also host the Boston Red Sox on July 4th and wrap up the season on the road against the Astros Oct. 1-3.

[RELATED: A's alternate 2020 site could be Giants affiliate's park]

Here’s a look at the entire tentative schedule: