Bigger Than the Game: Adam LaRoche
The time a professional hitter has to recognize a pitch - the speed, break and location - is around a half-a-second; basically the same time it takes to read..."this!"
That time, and subsequent timing, is what separates the professional from the prematurely retired. Being able to concentrate, and decipher a pitch, is the first thing any hitting coach will attempt to teach and, nothing new about it, is never easy to accomplish - don't swing with your eye's closed. The best of the MLB have got a concentration level, mixed with power-ability and quick hands, that is an outstanding, awe-impressive sight to see.
Even in the field of play, the speed of the game requires each piece of the nine to be at pure attentiveness, knowing exactly where the next play, throw, pitch, base-runner and out is occurring. Mental lapses in the game are what drive coaches, and other players, bananas - and most often out of a job. Without the mental marbles, the MLB season can wear down and expose anyone not on top of their game, with relative and ferocious ease.
With all that in mind, the season, and career, Adam LaRoche has managed to produce is nothing short of amazing, and questionably worthy of historical importance. Not only for the game of baseball itself, but also for the thousands that stand hidden, possibly ashamed, of A.D.D. or A.D.H.D.
Coming into today, LaRoche has provided the much-needed pop from the left-side in the Washington Nationals line-up. At .270, 29 home-runs and 92 R.B.I.'s, LaRoche has quietly constructed a stellar season, and the team is benefiting because of it. While other players on the team - Strasburg and Harper - have showered in the media-rain storm this year, Adam, like always, has gone about his game, business as usual. However, his "game," is everything but usual.
Diagnosed with A.D.H.D. in high school, LaRoche has battled with the condition, while attempting to fulfill a dream of professional baseball, with the odds stacked heavily against him. Many scouts and even LaRoche's coaches have harped on his lack-of-interest demeanor early in his career - both, at the plate and in the field. In a game where the mental-side is a high percentage of a player's make-up, LaRoche has endured more than a few doubters, but he continued regardless. Scenarios that most players see as muscle memory - when due-up to the plate, the number of outs or a hustle factor - are not the same guarantee in the mind of LaRoche.
In 2006, while with Atlanta, he fielded a ground-ball at first and nonchalantly ran to the bag, where he was beat out by the runner - oddly enough, it was against the Nationals. Since that time, his "disability," has been brought more into the public's attention. But, that doesn't matter to LaRoche...at all.
In the past eight-years he has been in the starting line-up for an MLB team, which is more than a lot of striving baseball player's can say. While he doesn't possess star-like power, fielding or speed, he has always provided a perfect piece to a team's chemistry; he has long been ordained a "class act" as a man, in the clubhouse and away, by reporters and his teammates. In a time when most people can't go three seconds on the job without losing focus, it's amazing to see someone, hindered by A.D.H.D, perform at the level he does, with so many odd-factors of life rooting against him.
Finally, as the Nationals inch closer to the playoffs, Adam LaRoche is getting his due and recognition as a key player in the MLB. If the Nationals are to make a serious push come October, LaRoche will have to provide the same pop that he has more recently. It's a huge task, for anyone, but even more so for him.
Regardless of the outcome, Adam LaRoche deserves an absolute ton of credit. Perhaps not as an MVP, but more so as a quiet-renegade against something that affects people everywhere, most importantly.
At the very least, he does not have to play for the Chicago Cubs.