Madison Bumgarner — a World Series hero and one of baseball's most recognizable figures — has been competing in rodeo events under an assumed name, according to a published report on Sunday.
The former San Francisco Giants pitcher has saddled up with the moniker "Mason Saunders" to participate in team roping competitions — and he even won a $26,560 prize during an event in Wickenburg, Arizona on Dec. 3, The Athletic reported.
Four days later, he finished second in another team-roping competition, good for $8,080.
When approached by the online sports publication and after being shown pictures of himself at the Rancho Rio Arena, Saunders/Bumgarner came clean.
“Oh boy,” said Bumgarner, who recently joined the Arizona Diamondbacks after a glorious 10-season run in San Francisco. “This is ruining my alias.”
This wasn't just a one-time roping romance for Bumgarner.
Last March, shortly after the Giants started spring training, a man named Mason Saunders competed at another team roping event — when two men on horseback are timed to see how fast they can rope a moving steer.
"That was me too," Bumgarner said when shown results of that competition.
Has Saunders won other events in team roping ?
"Yeah," he told The Athletic. "Maybe."
The 2014 World Series MVP explained his rodeo nom de plume: Saunders is his wife's maiden name and Mason is a shortened version of Madison.
Mason is "something for my wife to call me when we were out in public to keep people from recognizing me," Bumgarner told the sports news website. "But you're going to ruin that for me."
The 30-year-old grew up among horses and livestock in North Carolina. He famously delivered the 2014 World Series flag on Opening Day 2015 on horseback.
"It's just part of who you are," he told The Athletic about his wild west hobby.
It wasn't immediately clear if the Diamondbacks will have any problems with Bumgarner's off-the-field activities. Bumgarner missed three months of the 2017 season due to a dirt bike crash in Colorado.
Arizona General Manager Mike Hazen declined to discuss the matter, telling The Athletic he was "not going to get into discussing specific contract language."
Bumgarner's rodeo revelation shouldn't be too much of a surprise. Back in 2016, he told MLB.com that he has entered "smaller rodeos," but said he tries "to be smart" about his hobby.
In that same interview, Bumgarner said he has no immediate dreams of taking his roping to its big league level — at least not while still wearing cleats and a baseball cap.
"I have never bought a PRCA (Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association) card," he said in 2016. "Obviously, even if I fill it out I won't be able to go all year, and the heavy season for the PRCA is during the summer months. I'm a little busy right now that time of year. When I get done [playing baseball], I'd like to be able to fill out the card."
Bumgarner appears to be competing in amateur competitions not affiliated with the PRCA. No "Mason Saunders" has ever entered a PRCA event, a spokesman for the association said on Monday.