Adam LaRoche was a first baseman in the majors for six teams over 12 years and was only in his mid-30s when he abruptly retired from the Chicago White Sox before the start of the 2016 season.
LaRoche knows a thing or two about taking the fight to a pitcher when he was in the batter’s box, but in retirement, he and his wife, Jennifer, wage a new battle on a bigger front. They started the E3 Ranch Foundation to support wounded military veterans and fight against sex trafficking.
LaRoche told Fox News Digital in an interview Wednesday his partnership with veterans started when he was playing for the Washington Nationals in 2012 and 2013 and had chances to visit Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. He started to bring the vets to the ballpark to give them a change of scenery. He said he then started taking veterans on trips to his ranch in Kansas “as a way to serve them.”
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“We started doing that in the offseason and it ended up being one of the coolest things I’ve ever got to do in my career,” LaRoche said. “And now, post-baseball, we get to do it all the time. So it’s been awesome.”
LaRoche, a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger winner, said he loved his baseball career and did not think anything could top it until he started to hang around with some of the veterans. He compared the brotherhood he has witnessed from the veterans to that of what he has seen in major league clubhouses during the course of his career.
“It’s been interesting to hear and see how similar, in some ways and I say that respectfully, a team room or their kind of brotherhood in that environment is to a major league clubhouse,” LaRoche said. “Because the reality is, a major league clubhouse is full of a bunch of grown men that literally act like children. It is not your common workspace. As a matter of fact, business guys would come through and kind of see just the camaraderie and the atmosphere was very disturbing and confusing for them because literally it’s like a bunch of kids.
“So, the more I started hanging around with the soldiers, we started seeing so many parallels between a clubhouse and a team room. And in turn, when guys get out of baseball or any sport, that is what guys miss the most and that’s what leads to so much of the depression and divorce and all the things post-career, where you would look at a guy and be like, man, he’s got a stupid amount of money and all the things he could ever want, how could he not be at peace and enjoying that? And really it is, from losing that uniform, and becoming a former guy instead of a current guy.
“So. times that by 10 or 100 with our soldiers. And they get out, whether it’s time or not, whether they’re injured, you can’t go back or they retire. Then they lose the accolade and the uniform and just feel like they don’t have a mission anymore. So they miss the brotherhood. We get to replicate that here at the ranch because we do a lot of shooting and hunting and fishing and four-wheelers and horses. We just kind of put them back in that environment. And after a couple of days, it’s pretty cool to see that transition in their mind and kind of that freedom and peace and just the love of being back around their brothers.”
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LaRoche said that recently a female veteran came out to the ranch with her husband, who was a Navy SEAL. On her first night there, she killed a buck and nobody else did.
“She got to lay it on them pretty thick that night,” LaRoche said. “It was good.”
LaRoche said Willie Robertson, the “Duck Dynasty” star, was also out to the ranch recently along with another soldier, who ended up getting baptized by LaRoche and Robertson.
“We just see some life-changing stuff to give these guys some kind of hope and a recharge and some momentum going back home and going about their business,” he said.
LaRoche retired from baseball before the start of the 2016 season over a clubhouse incident in which he was barred from bringing his then-14-year-old son into the locker room with him every day. The average annual value of his salary at the time was $12.5 million, according to Spotrac.
When asked whether he had any regrets about the way he left the White Sox, LaRoche told Fox News Digital he did not.
“I don’t at all. That is the honest truth,” he said. “And I thought I might – the next day and the weeks to follow that I thought there might be a point where I really missed it or wish I made a different decision. But it was just really clear.”
LaRoche explained at the time he had just gotten to spring training fresh off a trip from Thailand, where he “saw some of the worst evil” he could imagine. He said that once he realized sex-trafficking networks are prevalent around the word, he dove more into how he would be able to help counter that.
“I went into spring training thinking, man, am I really going to go play a game for the next sixth months with all this going on that I know through our organization and all the groups that we worked with in law enforcement that could affect this,” he said. “No, when I got out, God made it very clear that it was time. There was just never any regret or second-guessing and it’s been awesome ever since.”
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LaRoche is now partnering with country music star Luke Bryan to give away his souped-up truck. Those interested could buy chances to win the truck and other prizes and raise money for the foundation.