Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Madison Bumgarner revealed over the weekend that he’s been competing in professional rodeo events under a fake name — and he’s made a good bit money doing it, though not by Major League Baseball standards. The teams has since responded, sort of.
As detailed by The Atlantic, Bumgarner says he has been roping since he was a teen and admitted to competing in professional competitions for at least a year, including in an event in March a couple of days before pitching for the San Francisco Giants during a spring training game in the Cactus League.
In a team-roping competition in December, Bumgarner won $26,560.
So how is it possible that such a high-profile figure — whose new contract with Arizona, signed in December, gives him $85 million over five years — has been competing in professional rodeo events without anyone knowing?
For one thing, he’s come up with a nifty alias: Mason Saunders. The first name is an abridged version of his real first name. The last is his wife’s maiden name.
“Something for my wife to call me when we were out in public to keep people from recognizing me,” Bumgarner/Saunders told The Athletic, adding: “But you’re going to ruin that for me.”
As for his love for roping, Bumgarner said “it’s just part of who you are.”
That big contract with Arizona, AP notes, was signed about two weeks after Bumgarner/Saunders won the roping competition in Wickenburg.
“Photos of Bumgarner roping were posted to the Facebook page for Rancho Rio in Wickenburg,” AP points out. “Bumgarner, a right-handed roper, said he is often recognized at rodeo events, but he has maintained the alias to keep his profile low.”
The threat of injury posed by competing at such events is particularly relevant to Bumgarner, who was out for three months of the 2017 season after injuring his shoulder in a dirt bike accident. He later expressed regret about the incident, calling the potentially contract-violating decision “stupid.”
As for how the team feels about it, when The Atlantic asked General Manager Mike Hazen about Bumgarner’s secret rodeo career, he told the outlet that they would not discuss “specific contract language.”
When his MLB pitching days are over, Bumgarner said, he would consider getting more serious about his roping career. (Read the full report by The Atlantic here.)