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Injured Adam LaRoche pops in as a surprise MASN guest analyst

Adam LaRoche. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

There’s only so much stretching, hitting, medical treatment, sitting in the dugout and clubhouse that Adam LaRoche can do each day while on the disabled list with a right quad strain. So on Sunday afternoon, in the bottom of the third inning of the Nationals-Mets game, LaRoche found a new way to fill some of his time: he showed up in the MASN broadcast booth for a stint as a color man.

During his 11 years in the majors, LaRoche has always looked up at the press boxes high up at stadiums but has never been up there. LaRoche decided on his own to pay his first visit up to the broadcast booth at Nationals Park on the fifth floor, among the highest views in baseball, during Sunday’s game. “I just wanted to go and peek down anyways, and then I figured I might as well stop in say hi,” he said.

While up there, LaRoche  was given a headset and provided insights on the Nationals. He was wearing a workout t-shirt but still had his baseball pants on. He appeared in the MASN booth in the bottom of the third inning and left in the sixth. MASN broadcasters F.P. Santangelo and Bob Carpenter were surprised to see the bearded LaRoche appear in the booth.

“Nobody knew about it because I didn’t want to bring anybody down with me,” LaRoche said. “That way I can take full responsibility like I fell out of the booth or something out there.”

LaRoche talked about a variety of subjects: his injury, Wilson Ramos, Ian Desmond’s hot week of hitting, Ryan Zimmerman during his injury, sliding, defense and shifting.  “It was fun,” LaRoche said about his time on the broadcast. Santangelo loved it.

Although LaRoche’s insight was sharp, he doesn’t envision the booth as a second career. “It was fun but I’d space out when on air when you’re supposed to be talking,” LaRoche said. “And the city is not really for me. Any city, really. If I’m not playing, I’d probably be out in the countryside.”

LaRoche said he wasn’t sure if he would do it again Monday. After his Sunday appearance, he received a flood of text messages from friends with fledgling businesses asking for him to plug their products on the air.

During his time in the broadcast booth, LaRoche gained a new appreciation for broadcasters — who are forced to analyze the game in real time and rely on the television feed to identify pitches because of the high angle at Nationals Park — and of his outfield teammates.

“It’s a different perspective,” LaRoche said. “I didn’t realize how big the outfield is. When I was up there, looking straight down, guys looked like ants. It makes you appreciate how much ground outfielders cover. From where I’m at, you don’t realize how big that gap is once the ball goes up. So the ball goes up and you’re looking at them, and you think there’s no way, but those guys cover a lot of ground.”

LaRoche took another step toward returning to the field Monday when he took grounders before the game for the first time since he landed on the disabled list. If he reacts well to that, the next step would be full batting practice and then running the bases. He noted a large improvement in his quad over the weekend and still maintained his timing while hitting in the batting cages.

But Manager Matt Williams may want LaRoche to play in a minor league rehab game before he is eligible to return next Sunday.

“I want him to go get a grounder that’s just reaction and want him to potentially turn and go into right field and try to catch a pop-up,” Williams said. “It’s hard to simulate that. It’s hard to go full speed unless you’re going full speed. When that is, I don’t know. We’re progressing him to that point where we can put him in a game situation and test it.”

>>> Ross Ohlendorf, a right-handed starter who has been on the 60-day disabled list all season with a back strain, is making his second rehab start on Monday and will pitch for Class AAA Syracuse. Ohlendorf allowed seven runs on 11 hits over 2 1/3 innings in his last rehab start with Class A Potomac.

James Wagner joined the Post in August 2010 and, prior to covering the Nationals, covered high school sports across the region.



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Adam Kilgore · May 19, 2014

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