How Adam LaRoche developed his stance
Adam LaRoche, described by former and current teammate Sean Burnett as "probably the most likable guy in baseball," has a way of doing everything smooth. His motions have been refined his whole life, since he followed his father, former pitcher and coach Dave LaRoche, around clubhouses as a kid.
The most relaxed part of LaRoche's game may also be the most unusual -- his batting stance. He stands wide open, facing the pitcher, as if he's curious about what's happening out in center field. It's different, but it works, and he's been doing it his whole life.
When LaRoche was 11, Dave LaRoche took his son to the batting cage behind their home just outside Houston. LaRoche batted with a standard, crouched stance, and Dave believed his son needed to relax. He told him to stand with his body nearly square to the mound, both eyes on the pitcher, to relax his hands and lean the bat on his shoulder. He wanted him to know what it felt like to hit with a calm, relaxed swing.
After several buckets of ball, Dave LaRoche told his son he could go back to his old stance. "No," he said. "I like this."
He has not changed since despite at least one attempt. LaRoche began one season in the minors in an awful slump, and his hitting coach saw a culprit in his unique approach. "I'll tell you what - give me two weeks," LaRoche told the coach. "If I'm still not hitting, do whatever you want."
LaRoche kept leaning the bat on his shoulder, kept staring down the pitcher with both eyes. He caught fire and never heard from the coach again. "That was the last time anybody has ever tried to change his hitting," Dave LaRoche said.
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| February 28, 2011; 7:00 AM ET
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