By now you’ve likely heard of a spectacular story that emerged over the weekend regarding San Francisco Giants legend Madison Bumgarner.
In a bit of reporting by The Athletic’s Andrew Baggarly and Zach Buchanan, it was revealed that Bumgarner (now with the Arizona Diamondbacks) has spent years competing in professional team-roping rodeo events under the alias of “Mason Saunders.”
And doing quite well, one might add.
One of the most famous pitchers in baseball has been competing in team-roping events under an alias for some time. Was he the Mason Saunders who competed alongside Colorado-based roper Tammy Ellerman in March of last year, two days before Bumgarner pitched for the Giants in a Cactus League game against the Athletics? “That was me, too,” Bumgarner said. Has “Saunders” won other events? “Yeah,” he said. “Maybe.”
Holy smokes. That is a story.
Based on the quotes, Bumgarner seemed okay with his alias being revealed. That said, I’m not going to stop anyone questioning the decision to pursue and publish a story outing an identity that was clearly being hidden on purpose, from someone who very much likes to keep private.
Bumgarner noted in the article that “everybody knows about it,” when talking about the baseball community. But that may have been a little hyperbolic.
In an article by Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle, two people who spent a lot of time with Bumgarner over the last decade were in the dark about Saunders:
“This is the first I know of Mr. Saunders,” former manager Bruce Bochy said. “I’m a little disappointed he didn’t call me to be part of this thing.”
Said Brandon Crawford, “I didn’t know he competed, but it doesn’t surprise me.”
Over at NBC Sports Bay Area, Alex Pavlovic adds a little bit of context to that Bochy quote:
Bochy was coy when asked about how much he knew over the years. He joked he was a “little disappointed he didn’t call me” to compete, but then said that in all seriousness, he’s most amazed by the fact that the story didn’t leak earlier given “his presence and who he is.”
”That’s pretty good, really. I knew he was doing some roping, I didn’t know it was on the competitive level,” Bochy said.
Based on the quotes coming out from players around the league, it seems most people knew Bumgarner was roping with regularity, but few understood that he was competing - and succeeding - at a professional level. Perhaps that shouldn’t be surprising. Bumgarner is many things, but a person who likes to talk about his own accomplishments is emphatically not one of them.
As for whether or not this will get him in trouble with his new team, it would certainly seem like the answer is no.
Mike Hazen just spoke with the media. He wouldn't go into any details on what Bumgarner's contract says, but he did say all his players are adults and they have lives of the field, and he doesn't tell them what they can and can't do.— Zach Buchanan (@ZHBuchanan) February 24, 2020
Perhaps that’s just the public message while it’s handled differently internally, but I would highly doubt it. Bumgarner/Saunders will likely have the green light to keep on being a two-sport star - even if his secret identity has been compromised.