You might remember us talking a few weeks ago about how New York Mets outfielder Yoenis Cespedes had his contract restructured after it was determined he’d broken an ankle trying to avoid being stampeded by a wild boar at his ranch.
While wildly amusing for us, you could understand how frustrated the Mets were – Cespedes missed the 2019 season – and how intent they became to recoup some of their investment in him after he blatantly violated the terms of his contract.
The contracts of professional athletes generally feature provisions prohibiting them from engaging in activities that put themselves at risk for injury. No skydiving. No running with the bulls. No bobsledding. If they get hurt doing something stupid, the club has legal recourse to recoup at least a portion of their money.
That makes you wonder what the Arizona Diamondbacks were thinking last weekend when The Athletic finally revealed Madison Bumgarner has been riding rodeo under an alias?
One thing is certain – the Diamondbacks certainly knew about Bumgarner’s hobby before signing him to a five-year, $85 million deal a few months ago.
Why would the Diamondbacks – why did the San Francisco Giants – allow him to do this while under contract?
The Athletic found two pictures on the Facebook page of Rancho Rio Arena in Arizona. One was of two guys taken at a competition celebrating their championship in a team-roping event. The shorter of the two Cowboys was identified as Jaxson Tucker. The taller was a rodeo pro from North Carolina, some guy named Mason Saunders.
Mason Saunders is actually Bumgarner.
“Oh boy,” Bumgarner told The Athletic on Sunday after being shown the photo. “This is ruining my alias.”
The other photo was Bumgarner riding a horse trying to rope a bull. The photos were taken on Dec. 3 – shortly before Bumgarner signed his deal with the Diamondbacks.
The Athletic discovered Bumgarner has been spending a lot of spare time competing in rodeo events while using his alias, obviously not concerned that someone might recognize himself. Apparently, a lot of people knew Saunders was actually Bumgarner and aware the guy had been roping steers for years.
A guy named Mason Saunders was in an event in March 2019, just two days before he pitched in an exhibition game for the Giants.
“That was me, too,” Bumgarner told The Athletic.
Bumgarner told The Athletic he’s been roping since he was a teenager and was taught how by his future father-in-law. In a 2016 interview with MLB.com, he admitted he tries to be smart about his hobby. Two years before, the left-hander did an interview on The Wrangler network during which he admitted that he ropes righthanded.
“We want to make that clear in case there are any Giants fans out there watching,” Bumgarner said.
Bumgarner told The Athletic he continues using his alias in order to limit those who knows about his alter ego. He was apparently not too happy that the website uncovered his secret, telling it how nervous he was about talking to them.
Bumgarner’s love for horses is so widely known there were rumors he left San Francisco for Arizona so he could be closer to them.
“The misconception that everybody had that I came here just to have my horses is bullshit,” Bumgarner said. But he did say he loves the greater access he has in Arizona to the sport.
Bumgarner shows no interest in giving up the sport, even now that his cover is finally exposed.
“No matter what hobbies I have, I take ’em serious,” Bumgarner said. “That’s just my personality. I don’t do anything just for fun, per se. I wish I did.”
Bumgarner has already gotten into trouble because of his extra curriculars. He missed three months of the 2017 season after he messed up a shoulder in a dirt bike accident in April. He apologized for his behavior. He was asked if he was allowed to rope by the Diamondbacks?
“Maybe ask Ken about that,” he said, referring to Arizona’s managing general partner Ken Kendrick.
When The Athletic reached out to Kendrick, it was told to ask general manager Mike Hazen. But he refused to go into detail about Bumgarner’s deal.
“Everybody knows about it,” Bumgarner said. “Word gets around. … The media didn’t know – until now.”