As the son of an All-Star lefthander and blessed with a mid-90-mph fastball himself, Adam LaRoche seemed destined to be a major league pitcher. When he was a two-position player at Seminole ( Okla.) State College, pro scouts raved about his arm, but LaRoche told them he had no desire to pitch-he wanted to play first base. "I wouldn't have signed with anyone as a pitcher," says LaRoche, whose father, Dave, had a successful 14-year career as a closer, from 1970 through '83. "I wanted to be out on the field every day."
The Braves took a chance on LaRoche, who was a junior college All-America, selecting him in the 29th round of the 2000 draft. Four years later he is Atlanta's starting first baseman and hitting cleanup on a team that's trying to make up for the loss of sluggers Gary Sheffield and Javy Lopez. Though LaRoche, 24, is off to a slow start, hitting .200 in his first nine games, his teammates have faith in him. "He's got a smooth swing and a slick glove," says leftfielder Chipper Jones. "He's the future of this team."