Here is what Adam LaRoche, the White Sox’ free agent first baseman and designated hitter, had to say on a conference call Tuesday after the team announced his two-year, $25 million deal.
Why the White Sox?
“Well, Chicago has been one of our favorite cities. Obviously I haven’t lived there in years and haven’t played there all summer. But coming in three or four days at a time, obviously they [family] would make that trip, typically on the other side of town against the Cubs, but it’s closer to home that I have ever played. I have always played East Coast and we live here in Kansas. This will be pretty convenient with them as they get more serious in school and it’s harder to pull them out for weeks at a time. It’s a pretty quick trip up the road. I think the family was, in general, excited about it because it’s close and they can come up and hang out.”
Are White Sox similar to Nationals when you got there?
“I will be able to answer that a little bit better when we get going in spring training. I have been in the National league and I’m not as familiar with the up-and-comers in the American League. I know I Washington going in there, my perception of the Nationals was nobody shows up for games, the teams are always really bad. And when I left there last year the whole city had done a 180. It’s really neat to be a part of something like that. By no means am I saying that Chicago has no fans and the minor league system is in any position like the Nationals’ was, but playing against the Nationals coming up, that was the perception. Going there and seeing the turnaround – and it is a process – I don’t need to get into all that but with drafting, scouting, all the way up they put a lot of time and work and thought into it and it’s starting to pay off there.
“In hearing from Rick [Hahn] and Robin [Ventura], and I have leaned on Jim Thome the last couple of weeks and his opinion of playing there, the direction the team is going, and everything I’m hearing is saying that they are not satisfied. I heard Rick say it toward the end of his conference [call] that he may never be satisfied. There may never be a situation where, ‘OK, we have all the pieces we need.’ I think they are always trying to improve and I think that’s probably why I got the phone call from them to start moving in that direction. I hope I’m there over these next two years and we end up in a situation where Washington was. That was a lot of fun. I can tell you that the summers are a lot more fun when you’re winning than when you’re losing and I’ve been a part of both of them.
How did you cut down on strikeouts and walk more this past season?
“I have no idea how that happened. That’s a great question. I would say with experience and at-bats you get more in tune to what pitchers are trying to do. As far as a change in approach I didn’t do anything different this year. A lot of this has to do with who is around you and I was surrounded by some really good hitters and that makes it tougher on pitchers. When pitchers try to figure out how to pitch guys, it helps when there are no easy outs. that was a big part of it, and maturing. Other than that I wish could tell you or would have changed 10 years ago.
Your dad was a Sox bullpen coach and you were just a kid when Robin Ventura was a White Sox.
“I remember Robin. Talking to him on the phone and hearing his voice brought back memories. A laid-back guy who enjoys being around here. Getting ready for a big league game you have 10 and 11 year old punks hanging around and he took the time to treat us the way he did and hang out with us. I always had respect for that. “
Can you pitch in a pinch?
“Absolutely I’ll be available to pitch. I’ve told every manager I’ve had that if a situation comes up and we need a position guy I expect to be the first one called. It hasn’t happened yet but I’ll be available.”
More on why he signed with the White Sox“There’s a lot that goes into that. First of all, I’ve got two kids now, 12 and 11. Years ago, they didn’t have a clue where we were going; they really didn’t care where we were going. Now, it’s not just totally up to me. Believe it or not, I put a lot of that in front of them, and my wife Jen as well. Most of these cities, most of these ballparks, I’ve played for a handful of teams, and I wanted them to be involved in this decision. That was part of it. A big part was the fact I was there in I believe ’89, ’90, ’91, kind of that stretch. I remember running around old Comiskey when my dad was coaching there and honestly, I’ve always been a White Sox fan. And I don’t just say that. I was at the age then where I was starting to understand the game and figure it out. I happened to be in a White Sox uniform quite a bit around that old stadium and all those years I enjoyed being around those guys. When I talked to Robin, and Bobby Thigpen down in the bullpen and some of those guys I was around as a kid, that part played into it. I love the city, I like the challenge of coming into a team that has not proved itself but is on the way and is looking to take over the division. I’ve been in a couple of those situations and it’s fun because when it works out in the end, and hopefully that’s during my time, but when it does it’s pretty rewarding to know that you’re a big part of that organization turning it around.
“I’d be lying if I said the money had nothing to do with it. They came in strong right out of the gate and showed their interest and commitment, how serious they were about getting something done. Just knowing that, having that comfort coming in that they were really wanting to make this happen, that definitely helps, too.”
Did you have to think hard about being a DH?
“I did. Absolutely I did because honestly it never crossed my mind that I would sign as a DH somewhere, even a part-time DH. I never, for whatever reason, I never even thought of the possibility or would I like to do, would I not want to do it. I told Robin, I would hate to come to a position somewhere where I totally give up first base because I feel like I can still be very productive on the defensive side. I said physically I still feel great. I’m not in the position yet, thankfully, where I need to be off my feet a bunch and where defense kind of affects me physically. Talking to him, they have a tough spot. They’ve got a kid [Jose Abreu] that’s obviously going to be around and be really good for a long time. It’s not fair to make him a full-time DH this early in his career, especially when he can handle first base and handle the glove over there. I’ll do it however it plays out. If they need me to play first more than we’re talking about, great, I’ll be there. If I end up DHing more, that’s fine. I’m looking forward to hopefully being in the middle of that lineup and having a chance to drive some runs in.”