Bring your (fill-in-the-blank) to work

Published 1:44 pm Friday, March 25, 2016

Chicago White Sox slugger (well, as much of a slugger as a .207 batting average last season can make you!) Adam LaRoche abruptly retired Tuesday.

At issue was a directive from team general manager Ken Williams that LaRoche not bring his 14-year-old son, Drake, to work with him every day at White Sox’s spring training camp in Arizona. What LaRoche left on the table in standing up for his principles as a father was $13 million remaining on a two-year baseball contract. What he left in the hearts of fathers – and fathers-to-be – everywhere was, well, priceless.

In our gotta-have-it-now world, you’re a kid-hater if you suggest LaRoche overstepped his bounds by bringing his son to work every day.

And if you side with LaRoche, a dad who obviously loves his son, you have no respect for the other 50 players on this team and their jobs and the sanctity of their workplace.

But why can’t there be a middle ground here? What’s so wrong about cutting back on Drake’s time with the club, if that’s the way the team — LaRoche’s employer — wants it?

Nobody told him his son was banned — just don’t bring him with you to the clubhouse every day.

First off, this is black-and-white, but don’t read a racial dynamic into this. Ken Williams, the White Sox president, is black; LaRoche is white. Williams didn’t tell LaRoche his son was banned.

It’s much more another shade of gray.

See, LaRoche can do what he dang well pleases. He’s made nearly $72 million in his career. And part of the reason that LaRoche can afford to retire and give up a $13 million contract is that baseball has been such a good business for him.

This brings us to reality. While you’ve got a lot of players offering public support for LaRoche by saying that sports should be fun, that part of its essence is the bond it helps create in some families, a lot of us ought to realize that sports at the major league level isn’t played purely for ‘fun.’ No one who swings a bat or gloves a ball for a living and gets paid millions of dollars can reasonably argue otherwise.

I can’t imagine Williams, who says he just asked LaRoche to “dial it back” on the amount of time Drake spends around the team, did it solely for the purpose of separating father and son.

Whatever way this ends up: it’s not about Drake. Teammates told LaRoche that Drake brought perspective. He helped out when he was around and he wasn’t a burden by any stretch of the imagination. He has his own locker in the clubhouse. LaRoche himself even called his son the Sox’s “26th man.”

Still, what would Williams do if other players wanted their kids to have the same access? Maybe some players were uncomfortable about watching their language, dressing appropriately or limiting what they could do in the clubhouse if Drake were around?

Yes, a major league clubhouse is not your average office. There are plenty of people looking to make sure they are happy and in most cases bringing their kids to work does that. It’s precious time you don’t get back.

As LaRoche has said regarding his own dad, Dave, a former pitcher, the memories from this unique opportunity last a lifetime. Drake’s already got some. He could still make more, just now on a more limited basis.

There’s no question that seeing kids around any big league team in any sport from NASCAR to tiddly-winks offers warm, fuzzy images. In most cases, kids generally leave once their dads have to get to work on the track, court or ball field, and that seems reasonable. Are, say, Carolina Panthers sons there every day, all day? I don’t think so.

This isn’t about LaRoche as a dad. I applaud him for wanting his son around. Not to get syrupy on you, but I think every father on the planet ought to feel the same way.

But now with LaRoche’s proposed retirement, the middle ground of compromise may be gone.

LaRoche, perhaps, lost it when he brought Drake every day for all these years. The White Sox and LaRoche’s other clubs — and he’s played for Atlanta, Washington, Boston, Pittsburgh and Arizona — probably emboldened him when they didn’t say something before now.

Hopefully, it’s not too late to find a middle ground and get Drake back in the clubhouse.


GENE MOTLEY is a Staff Writer at Roanoke-Chowan Publications. He can be contacted at or 252-332-7211.