Major League Baseball superstar Madison Bumgarner of the Arizona Diamondbacks was reportedly caught having an unusual side hustle: rodeo roper.
On Sunday, The Athletic reported that Bumgarner has been competing under the name “Mason Saunders,” a play on his first name combined with the maiden name of his wife, Ali.
The longtime Giants star and World Series hero signed a five-year, $85 million contract with the D-Backs in the off-season. But The Athletic found a Facebook photo of him and his partner after winning $26,560 in a team-roping event in December:
Confronted by The Athletic, Bumgarner confirmed that it was him in the image as well as in pictures from other rodeo events the website found.
“Oh boy,” he was quoted as saying. “This is ruining my alias.”
Bumgarner admitted to roping before and entering “smaller rodeos.” He said he roped right-handed, not the left he uses for pitching. But he told the website he had been competing under an alias so as to not draw attention to himself. He also said it wasn’t exactly a secret within baseball.
“Everybody knows about it,” he told the website. “Word gets around.”
At least one event uncovered by The Athletic took place while Bumgarner was a free agent; others occurred while he was with the Giants. It’s not clear if the extracurricular activity was a violation of his baseball contracts; however, it’s not uncommon for teams to place such restrictions on their players.
In one of the most famous examples, then-Yankees third baseman Aaron Boone injured himself playing basketball in early 2004, before the baseball season began. New York released Boone and voided his $5.75 million contract, paying $917,553 as a termination fee, ESPN reported at the time.
Boone is now the team’s manager.
And last year, the New York Mets heavily restructured its contract with outfielder Yoenis Céspedes after he injured himself during what Sports Illustrated described as “an interaction with a wild boar.”
As for Bumgarner, he has been engaged in roping while under contract for some time, and not just under a fake name. A 2014 profile in Sports Illustrated described him and his wife roping cattle in Arizona during spring training, coming across a large snake, presumably a rattler. He hacked it to pieces, and they found a still-living jackrabbit inside it, which they nursed back to health and released into the wild.
The story was even better when broadcast icon Vin Scully told it:
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