View Full Version : Some fluff about LaRue and Dunn

04-02-2006, 12:45 PM
LaRue has brought blue-collar attitude to Reds since 1999

They call him Dutch, for no apparent reason, and Adam Dunn calls him Captain KangLaRue. And because he is from Texas and sometimes wears rattlesnake boots, they call him Cowboy.

Jason LaRue has more nicknames than the alpha inmate on Cell Block 13.

It is difficult to avoid monikers and stereotypes when you drive a white Ford pick-up truck with monster tires and you wear a John Deere tractor cap to the park and you wear a camouflage T-shirt under your baseball uniform.

Dunn and Ken Griffey Jr. love to ignore LaRue in the clubhouse when he says something to them while wearing his camouflage shirt. “We can hear you, but we can’t see you,” they say.

So far, the 32-year-old catcher has avoided being called Geezer or Pops or Old School, but that can’t be far behind. He is the answer to a good trivia question: Which member of the 2006 Cincinnati Reds has been with the team the longest?

Jason LaRue: 1999, six years, going on seven.

And he comes from the Tough Guy mold. He played last year with a hair-line fracture in his thumb and played every day manager Jerry Narron put him in the lineup.

As spring training began its last week, LaRue hit his first extra-base hit, a home run. And he felt something grab in his knee. He tore the medial meniscus in his right knee.

The next day, LaRue and team medical director Dr. Tim Kremchek were flown from Sarasota, Fla., to Cincinnati so Kremchek could perform a 30-minute arthroscopic operation on Kremchek’s home operating table. They immediately turned around and flew back to Sarasota the same day so LaRue could begin instant rehabilitation.

He walked into the clubhouse that day on crutches, but said, “If they let me, I could throw these things away and dance.” And if they let him, he probably would have squatted behind home plate for an exhibition game that night.

“It’s amazing what they can do these days, absolutely amazing,” said LaRue, counted out for 10 to 14 days, meaning he’ll miss only the first week of the season.

“Even more amazing is how I hurt it, feeling a pop in there when I hit the home run,” he said. “The next day I was catching Paul Wilson in a bullpen session and when I started to warm him up I felt discomfort. It didn’t go away and after a short while I told (trainer) Mark Mann, ‘I gotta go see Doc.’ ”

LaRue believes better things are ahead for the organization because of things such as owner Bob Castellini using his private jet to whisk LaRue to Cincinnati and back in one day.

Nice plane?

“Oh, yeah. Don’t know what kind it was. If it was a truck, I could tell you. For Bob to do what he did says a ton about where this organization is headed. First class.”

With a new two-year $9.2 million contract signed over the winter, LaRue doesn’t need to be asked about being a team leader. He says he always has been, that the position demands it.

“People keep reminding me I’m the guy with the most service and I guess it means a lot,” he said. “My role hasn’t changed from years past. The position I play makes me a leader because I have a lot of priorities.”

The responsibilities are why LaRue chose catching as a profession. Sure, he’s a tough guy, too. Johnny Almaraz signed LaRue and said when he visited LaRue’s house there were a bunch of holes in the walls and his mother said, “That’s from Jason and his brother Joe wrestling and having it get out of hand.”

Said LaRue, “There are a lot of decisions to be made in the game and it all starts with the catcher. You are involved in almost every play of the game and nothing begins until the catcher flashes the sign.”

LaRue had his best season a year ago — .260, 14 homers, 60 RBIs over 110 games — while relinquishing some of his time to backup catcher Javier Valentin. The two combined to hit .268 with 28 homers and 110 RBIs, the best tandem catcher statistics in the majors.

If he could, LaRue would catch all 162, but he never said a word about Valentin cutting into his time.

“It worked, didn’t it?” he said.

Profile: Adam Dunn
Name: Adam Dunn

Position: Outfielder

Bats/throws: Left/right

Age: 26

Height/weight: 6 feet 7/275

Born/reside: Houston/Montgomery, Texas

Acquired: Second-round pick in the 1998 draft.

On the field: He is the only player in Reds history to have two seasons with 100 walks, 100 RBI and 100 runs. He has the second-most home runs (158) after five years as a Red. Frank Robinson had the most (165).

Favorite meal: Mexican food. "I've become a burrito guy."

If you could go to dinner with one person, who would it be? "She'd have to be smart, so we could talk. Jennifer Aniston. I'd let her take me to dinner."

Favorite TV show: "Family Guy"

First car: Dodge Ram pickup

Fun fact: Dunn is a huge fan of Ultimate Fighting Championship. He attended two shows in the offseason and has become friends with middleweight champ Rich Franklin.

04-02-2006, 12:57 PM
Good read. Thanks Creek.

04-02-2006, 07:34 PM
If you could go to dinner with one person, who would it be? "She'd have to be smart, so we could talk. Jennifer Aniston. I'd let her take me to dinner."

Creek is way smarter than Jennifer Aniston.

04-02-2006, 07:48 PM
Who'd have thought Adam Dunn was looking for a smart girl??? :eek: :laugh:

04-02-2006, 07:52 PM
Thanks BCubb. And you're smarter than Adam!! ;)

Jason LaRue
Country boy can survive here

Age: 32

Position: Catcher

Family: Married to Heather; they have three sons - Tyler, Dylan and Brayden

Music preference: "I'll listen to anything, but mostly country."

At-bat song this year: "I'm not sure; 'A Country Boy Can Survive' is always possible."

MP3 Player or iPod: iPod

Texas chili or Cincinnati chili: "Texas chili. There's no comparison."

Ford or Chevy: "I've had both. I have a GMC right now. But I'm going to go back to Ford, so I'm gonna have to say Ford."

Hank Williams Sr. or Hank Williams Jr: "I listen to Junior more."

Designated Hitter or Pinch Hitter: Pinch Hitter

Miller Lite or Bud Light: Coors Light

Tim McGraw or Kenny Chesney: Kenny Chesney

Jason LaRue's wife, Heather, cooks most of the family meals. But during baseball season when the LaRues eat out for dinner more often, and when Jason chooses the restaurant, he loves to eat at Cracker Barrel.

"My favorite thing they have is the grilled chicken tenderloin plate, with hash brown casserole, green beans, a salad with ranch and sweet tea," he says, rattling it off like he's ordering.

"I like it because it's as close to country food as you can get."

It's not the gourmet meal you might expect from a major league catcher set to earn $3.9 million this season. But it is the type of meal you'd expect a truck-drivin' Texas country boy like LaRue to want.

Just days before the start of spring training this year, still shaking the drive from Texas to Florida off him, LaRue called from Sarasota and chatted openly about the Reds' new owners, growing up in Texas, wild pitches and how much he admires his grandpa.

The 32-year-old catcher speaks easy and friendly. He's the opposite of pretentious. While some grow up modestly and forget where they come from when title and money find them, LaRue can be counted on to be the same kid he was when he watched his grandpa put in long hours on his cattle farm.

The way he sees it, he doesn't have much choice.

"I think I'd have a lot people in my family beat the s—- out of me if I forgot my roots or the way I grew up," he says.

LaRue grew up just outside of Houston in the same hometown as Adam Dunn. LaRue and Dunn's older brother were "just about best friends." In fact, LaRue has known Dunn since he was baby.

LaRue's grandfather lived about an hour away, and it was on his cattle farm that LaRue and his siblings spent their summers. It also seems to be where LaRue has his fondest memories of growing up.

So it's no surprise that last year, just before inking his two-year, $9.1 million contract, he bought a 1,764-acre ranch in southeast Texas, ensuring that his boys - Tyler, 5; Dylan, 2; and 5-month old Brayden - would have similar childhood memories of farm life that were so instrumental in shaping him.

"I'd always wanted a ranch because I was able to see what my grandfather had on his farm and what it did for me and my brothers and sisters," he says. "And I thought it'd be great for my family.

"For me, the people I look up to the most and respect the most are the people who come from how my dad was raised, and my grandpa: hard-working people. They don't make a great deal of money, but they don't need to. They're family-oriented and have a Southern tradition of living and I totally love that."

Opening Day in Cincinnati means one thing to LaRue: The season is finally starting. And even though he won't be behind the plate for a week or two because of knee surgery, there are still many reasons to be hopeful this Opening Day.

Excitment for the new season is palpable with new owner Bob Castellini vowing to restore the Reds to greatness. And for aging players such as LaRue, it's about time.

"I remember as a rookie I had a taste of winning and going to the playoffs in '99," LaRue says. "I know what it feels like, and I would just like to be playing in October. There's nothing better than that."

Now that Sean Casey is gone, LaRue is the Reds' veteran player, playing for the team longer than any of the Reds' superstars who get more ink and louder applause than he does. He's the grizzled veteran, so to speak. For the last five years he's been a constant behind home plate, blocking balls, calling games and leading the team.

Since joining the team seven years ago, LaRue has embraced Cincinnati, even if he hasn't exactly embraced its cuisine. (When I asked whether he prefers Cincinnati or Texas chili, LaRue and his father-in-law shared such an enthusiastic laugh at the absurdity of the question that I envisioned him wiping tears from his eyes.)

He lives life in Texas in the off-season, but Cincinnati, its fans and the ball park have become his second home.

"Opening Day in Cincinnati is great," says LaRue, who last year took the plate to Hank Williams, Jr.'s song "Country Boy Can Survive."

"I'm not sure if the fans do realize that when you're playing in front of a sell-out crowd, it does make a difference," he says. "You get more adrenaline flow and it makes every game like a playoff atmosphere."

The 2005 season was LaRue's year.

He hit a career high RBI and had the highest batting average (.260) he's ever had. In fact, he's improved his batting average every year but one since he's been a Red. His on-base and slugging percentages in '05 were also career highs, and he struck out less than ever before.

His goal each year is simple: To perform better than he did last season. When it comes to tenacity and hard work, LaRue is all grit, performing one of the hardest jobs on the team. He takes foul tips off his face mask, gets whacked by wild pitches and squats for nine innings. He's the unsung everyman on the team, performing an often thankless job.

He doesn't get the glory other players get because he doesn't hit home runs. But you've got to give it to a guy who gets beat up by broken bats and steamrolled at home plate on a regular basis.

"If you don't like pain, it's not a position for you," LaRue says. "If you can't take pain, you don't belong behind the plate."

His position requires that he be a team leader. The way he sees it, if he does his job well, then that will reflect on the entire team. To get himself and the team where he wants them to be, he works. Hard. Like he watched his grandpa do on the farm.

"It teaches you a great lesson in life when you see people working like that," he says. "You just don't stop until you get it right. I have the God-given ability to play, but that work ethic has gotten me to where I am today."

Yep. A country boy can survive.