Lucas LeBlanc is an atypical minor league baseball player. Picture Tim Robbins' character from the movie Bull Durham, Nuke LaLoosh -- a brash, bar-hopping kid, concerned first and foremost about making the big leagues. Now picture his direct opposite.
LeBlanc, a 22-year-old outfielder with the Greenville Drive, a Single-A affiliate of the Red Sox, has much more on his mind than baseball, beer and girls. He has a family in the stands: two kids and his wife, Ashlie. He has a rent bill to pay on his own, unlike his teammates who shack up together to split costs. He has responsibility.
"Very, very rare to see at such a low level of baseball to have a family, two kids, a wife," said Drive manager Billy McMillon. "He's a real adult with real responsibilities. Any 22-year-old with two kids, that's one thing. Then you've gotta come out every day and play baseball? I don't know how he doesn't pull his hair out every day."
It's not easy for the kid from Lockport, Louisiana. Instead of playing for college baseball powerhouse Louisiana State University, where he had a scholarship waiting for him, LeBlanc is living with the ups and downs of minor league ball, trying to stand out.
The website SoxProspects.com says LeBlanc has "slightly above-average all-around tools, but none are stellar." His 6-foot-3, 200-pound frame and his athleticism give him hope to stick around and maybe eventually move up the organizational ladder.
LeBlanc's climb recently hit a snag, though. He had to have surgery to repair a broken thumb, something that will keep him out of action for 3-4 weeks and undoubtedly leave him frustrated as his dream of making the big leagues -- and providing a better life for his young family -- stalls.
"If I have a bad game, they don't deserve me coming home in a bad mood," LeBlanc said. "I don't want to come home and be the mean dad. That's challenging."
His family tries to make it as easy on him as possible. Ashlie, who watches Drive games in a team jersey with the family surname on the back, is an unwavering supporter of her husband's dream. It's her's, too.
"No regrets," she said. "We don't want to not do something just because it might be hard. It's worth it because you live once and you want to be able to say I did what I wanted to do."
LeBlanc is doing what he wants, even if his way is different than that of his teammates.
On the field, baseball is baseball. But when LeBlanc is going home to put two kids to bed, it doesn't leave a whole lot of room for socializing away from the diamond.
"Me and all the guys have diff priorities, obviously," LeBlanc said. "I don't get to spend as much time with teammates as other guys do. They know that , but they know my situation and I get along with everyone. At the end of the day it's just family. Family's what you got, and I just try to look out for them as much as I can."