Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Madison Bumgarner has been leading a secret double life under everyone's noses. Using the alias "Mason Saunders," Bumgarner has been routinely taking part in rodeo events, even winning $26,560 in a team roping event in December.
The Athletic broke the story of Bumgarner’s rodeo career over the weekend. In order to try and hide his identity, the pitcher used a name he said his wife calls him in public to try to avoid attention. From there he adopted her last name and started working in rodeos in early 2019. For almost a year his nom de plume helped him avoided being noticed by the general public, although it’s not clear to what degree his secret was out within the rodeo world. Either the 6’4 pitcher avoided attention somehow, or he was sheltered by the community to protect his identity.
Either way, it’s incredible his identity remained secret this long. His alter-ego was only revealed when Rancho Rio in Wickenburg, Arizona, posted a photo of him competing, which blew his cover more or less immediately.
Speaking to The Athletic, Bumgarner said rodeo is part of his DNA. His upbringing led to his love of rodeo and horses, “it’s just part of who you are,” he explained — but the hobby is raising questions about how Bumgarner’s five-year, $85 million contract with the Diamondbacks, signed just before he competed in the Rancho Rio rodeo, is worded.
When asked, general manager Mike Hazen said he was “not going to get into discussing specific contract language,” in Bumgarner’s deal. It’s possible he had a clause written in allowing him to participate in rodeos, but that seems almost vanishingly unlikely. Typically teams include a laundry list of dangerous, or unadvised activities that a player agrees not to participate in, which could cause damage to their body or injury. It’s standard wording intended to protect teams in the event a player were to become injured while doing something outside the scope of their job.
Bumgarner did say that he might explore competing in rodeo more fully when his baseball days are over. Right now it’s not completely clear if the "Mason Saunders" revelation will prevent him from continuing to compete in rodeo while under contract with the Diamondbacks, but we’d guess his rodeo days are done for the time being.