What am I not understanding about this Adam LaRoche story? Actually, scratch that. There is plenty here that I don't understand, most of it from a parenting perspective.
You'll recall LaRoche is the Chicago White Sox baseball player who, last week, abruptly retired after team management asked him to reduce the number of times his teenage son could visit the (team's) clubhouse -- by 50 per cent --- say the media reports. Some media have indicated that 14-year-old Drake LaRoche was in the White Sox clubhouse for about 120 games last season. What? Why?
As the story goes, the elder LaRoche clearly did not appreciate the option offered by the club. The team held him accountable. LaRoche, in what appears to be peculiar decision, walked away from the final year of a two-year contract, leaving $13-million on the table --- and retired. Sounds like a mega adult temper tantrum to me.
The story has captured many of the spring training headlines -- rightly or wrongly -- and has many parents and non-parents scratching their heads, including myself.
Having been inside many baseball dressing rooms over the years as a sports reporter, and inside the players-only areas of many other sports arenas and venues as a member of the media, I can tell you, this is a private area for the members of that team and should be left as such. That's their domain, their space and should be treated that way.
I remember vividly, several years ago covering the Montreal Alouettes football team for CTV Montreal, when then-coach Don Matthews (the winningest coach in Canadian Football League history at the time) suddenly instituted a policy barring media from entering the teams' dressing room. The new rule would allow media to conduct interviews immediately outside the dressing room, against a backdrop with the team logo on it.
There was some backlash from reporters about being banned from the dressing room. Many citing that this would potentially impact the quality of the interviews and ultimately their stories if they didn't have an opportunity to spend time with these athletes in their environment. I could maybe see that viewpoint for print journalists, but as a television sports reporter who was attached to a cameraman, whatever interview I got, my cameraman had to record -- so there was no such thing as a discreet, private interview in front of a locker stall.
I agreed with coach Matthews' philosophy.
The reason I agreed is because the Alouettes locker room was the place where the players worked out, showered, dressed, undressed, chatted, ate, socialized, did professional football player things -- in a private space. Those things were no only else's business, in my opinion. Professional athletes have enough of a spotlight and plenty of eyes on them in all kinds of environments daily and these days on an almost 24-7 basis, why not let them have a space of sanctity -- away from everyone but their immediate sports family -- teammates, coaches, team personnel -- and on occasion if that includes a player's own family member, then so be it. On occasion.
Why in the world would Drake LaRoche need to spend that much time in the clubhouse of a major league baseball club? Where I come from, take your kid to work day happens once a year -- and that is when your kid is in Grade 9 -- hopefully only once per kid. Anything more than that, is entirely arbitrary and a super-slippery-slope. I cannot think of any occupation where the continual presence of an employees' child would be welcomed, supported, tolerated or accepted.
Irritated, aggravated, frustrated are some adjectives many employees would presumably begin to feel if one of their colleagues decided to have their kid or any family member for that matter appear at their place of work day after day.
Secondly, once you've been read the rules, followed by somewhat of a 'riot-act' by your employer, what gives you the right to ignore that and continue on as per usual as if you are in charge. Isn't part of sound parenting teaching kids to follow rules -- inside their house and outside of it? Same drill for employee and employer--no? Furthermore, what recourse are you giving the rule-maker here? Only one. And that is to follow-through on the consequences of insubordination. Pretty plain and simple.
It is increasingly difficult to believe that LaRoche would throw in the towel on his career because of a team rule reducing the frequency of his son's presence in the clubhouse. There has to be more here. LaRoche could simply have followed through --- less Drake at work, and he'd still have a job.
Even homeschooling (if we're using these types of visits as a field trip example) has limits. Limits. Yes, about those things -- which seem to be increasingly lacking, in large amounts these days. LaRoche, from what I've read, was told that he could continue to have his son visit the clubhouse, just not as much.
LaRoche is, by all accounts, a family man, who takes his parenting responsibility seriously. I applaud that. It's extremely commendable, especially in the wild world of professional sports. He is also widely quoted as saying he does not "believe" in school. That's a whole other debate. So with that mentality, spending time with his son in a professional baseball setting was a learning experience for the boy. Within reason, I would submit. Let's face it, there are only so many quality life lessons a 14-year-old could possibly learn being in that environment consistently. And, it must be said, there would be plenty of things said in that atmosphere that should remain sealed from the ears of a young boy.
Reports say LaRoche's family, his kids have previously asked him to retire from the game. Could it be that the guilt finally got to him? We all manage various levels of guilt as parents, don't we? It can be gnawing and ultimately brutal, however pragmatic your approach.
Reports say that several of LaRoche's teammates complained to White Sox leadership about the consistent presence of this kid in their clubhouse. If that's true, then they've all been pretty silent as the team's executive, led by team VP Kenny Williams, gets dragged through the fallout.
Bottom line, LaRoche had an opportunity to teach his kid(s) a true life lesson by following the rules, exercising the option offered him, curbing excessive visits and managing the situation, maturely. Admit that perhaps it was too much and have his kid visit, less. But no. He chose to steal the headlines and trigger a debate on a topic that many people, including myself, agree is not debatable. If he had chosen the rationale and logical route, we would have never heard about this story. This blog would not exist.
LaRoche chose to misuse the privilege granted him and his son. LaRoche chose to retire. No one forced him. He made his bed and needs to lie in it.
Not the greatest example of role-modelling as a baseball player or parent.