Being a contestant on the game show was a lifelong dream, LaRosa, who will turn 37 next week, said.
"I've been watching since I was seven or eight years old," he said.
LaRosa, who works in Riverhead and lives in Coram, said he saw a commercial last year that the show would be taping in Madison Square Garden.
He sent a one-minute video of himself, which he made on his cell phone, and a few weeks later was called for open auditions in Brooklyn. About 1000 people came to the three-day audition, LaRosa said, where they were asked to participate "in a mini version of the show."
When he made it to the second round, LaRosa said would-be contestants had to pretend they were talking to the show's famous host, Pat Sajak.
LaRosa told show staffers that he was recently married and that he and his wife had shared a destination wedding to the Bahamas — and that he'd been a United States postal carrier for almost ten years.
Then, because contestants are urged to tell a unique story that will set them apart, LaRosa said, "My wife is due with our first child in March, and one of the days you are taping at Madison Square Garden is the day she is due. My wife said I'm allowed to miss the birth of my first child for the show."
LaRosa must have made an impression because next, he got a letter in his own mail on Christmas Eve, telling him he'd been selected to tape a show.
"I was yelling and screaming," LaRosa said. "It was the greatest Christmas present ever."
As it turned out, LaRosa wasn't slated for the Madison Square garden shoot. But on July 4, when his wife was giving their new baby Lucas a bath, LaRosa's cell phone rang, with a Culver City, CA number.
LaRosa had been selected for a taping date during a special theme week — in Las Vegas.
"I said, 'You mean, I'm going to be on 'Wheel of Fortune' and I get to go to Vegas? I'm there.'"
He and his wife asked their families to watch their baby and planned a special vacation.
Once at the show, LaRosa said the taping was held at the Venetian Las Vegas. He was told to bring an extra outfit, in case of spills or tears.
At the show, LaRosa signed release forms, then went to hair and makeup; five episodes were taped per day.
LaRosa said he and his fellow contestants were treated to full-scale, lavish meals at craft services. "It was like being a rock star for a day."
Next came dress rehearsal. "The wheel and the puzzle board look a lot bigger on TV than in real life," he said, adding that the wheel was actually heavier, too, and harder to spin than he'd thought. All contestants were fitted with microphones, and were given lessons on how to speak into them.
After another lavish lunch, the contestants picked balls to see what order they'd play; LaRosa got the first taping.
LaRosa, standing in the middle of two women, was taught how to clap so the sound didn't pick up on the mic. Then a casting coordinator gave the three contestants a run-through and directed the crowd.
"I walked onto the stage and saw my wife in the front row. I gave her a little wink so she'd know I knew she was right there. And then, within a few minutes, Pat and Vanna White walked out and we started playing the game. It was real at that point."
At first, LaRosa said, the experience was "nerve-wracking," with the lights, audience, and cameras surrounding him. "It was all surreal at that point."
LaRosa lost the first puzzle but rebounded quickly on the second, winning $2000.
Next, LaRosa said he flubbed a puzzle that has made him the "butt of many jokes," when he solved the name of a Stephen King novel by saying "Under the Dove," instead of "Under the Dome."
Back in the game, LaRosa swiftly slayed the next puzzle, guessing accurately that "This is A Momentous Occasion" was the answer.
Sajak asked LaRosa why he hadn't even bothered to spin before solving the puzzle.
"Because I know you're sending me someplace," LaRosa said. Indeed, he won a trip to Antigua and a handheld video camera, plus $1000 cash; the prize was valued at $7500.
Although LaRosa did not win the next round, and his fellow contestant won over $45,000 in cash, he walked away a happy man.
"It was great," he said, adding that as he was leaving with his wife, many stopped to shake his hand. "It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."
This Monday, LaRosa's wife threw a viewing party at JC's in Manorville, where 35 close friends and family gathered to watch the show on a number of different screens.
"My wife gave me a goof gift — a copy of 'Under the Dome.' She told me I'd never forget the name."
Also earlier this week, Snowflake Ice Cream Shoppe in Riverhead created a special ice cream for their favorite mailman and put a shout out on Facebook about his game show stardom.
LaRosa and his wife will go on his prize-winning trip to Antigua in April, for their two-year anniversary, and bring their young son.
Of the experience, he said, "It was my 15 minutes of fame."