“We’re not big on school. I told my wife, ‘He’s going to learn a lot more useful information in the clubhouse than he will in the classroom, as far as life lessons.’”
That was the money quote from designated hitter Adam LaRoche, late of the Chicago White Sox, explaining his reason for bringing his 14-year-old son Drake to the clubhouse every day.
That was the hill he was prepared to die on, when team president Kenny Williams told him he would have to “dial it back” on Drake’s constant presence in the players’ sanctum. So LaRoche, who now claims the club later told him not to bring Drake to work at all, walked away from the White Sox, and his $13 million salary for 2016.
Now, understand, no one is telling Adam LaRoche how to be a parent. If he believes so strongly that having his son literally grow up fetching sunflower seeds and water in a testosterone-charged environment of expectorating, genital-scratching, belching, farting, profane, overprivileged millionaires is a better curriculum than he’d get in a regular school — though school appears to be good enough for his younger sister, Montana — that’s up to LaRoche and, presumably, his wife Jennifer.
If he thinks being schooled on the Internet in his spare time, passing the occasional standardized test and being in class during the October-to-February baseball off-season is, for Drake, an acceptable education, that’s his choice as a parent.
Like the anti-vaxxers, the anti-schoolers no doubt think they’re doing the right thing.
But this sounds more like a “Who’s The Boss?” hissing match than an actual question of principle. The first clue is that LaRoche’s teammates — or at least the vocal few, led by ace pitcher Chris Sale, who have spoken out — say they are 100 per cent behind LaRoche’s stand and that Williams has no business interfering in the clubhouse.
Really? He’s the team president. The team is his business. The team has lost an average of 91 games the last three seasons and has won exactly one playoff game since the 2005 World Series.
We may never know the genesis of Williams’ ultimatum to LaRoche. Did some unnamed players, who have since gone silent, complain about a 14-year-old’s inhibiting influence? Did coaches or the manager think LaRoche might do better than hit .206 if his son were elsewhere?
Williams is taking the fall, but maybe the owner, Jerry Reinsdorf, looked at the club’s record and figured a shakeup in the comfort level of the prima donnas in the room couldn’t hurt.
Whatever the reason, the reaction says everything you need to know about new age thinking in professional sports, where the players set the clubhouse agenda and are stunned when a line is drawn in the sand by upper management.
Not saying life was better ‘way back when,’ but a pro sports locker room used to be unequivocally a man’s world (women’s leagues excepted), no place for moppets to call home.
Sometime around 2004, the year Phil Mickelson won the Masters and his girls ran onto the 18th green, it began to be customary for victorious athletes in all sports to push their kids out front — good for the warm-and-fuzzy “what a great dad” image, sitting at the podium with cute little Todd or Melissa on the lap — and from there to all players occasionally bringing their tots to the dressing room was but a small step. And not a bad one, by any means.
Being exposed to daddy’s workplace, now and then, is a great experience, can help form a tighter bond among teammates and (yes, Adam LaRoche) can be educational. In small doses.
My dad worked in an insurance office. I would sometimes go there, after school or on a weekend, to play with the typewriter, or listen to him deal with customers, or mildly complain — in the days before he bought the agency from him — that my grandfather was never there because he was off playing pool with his cronies. (My friends and I would then head for the pool hall to listen to the old guys swear.)
It was nowhere near as cool as being the son of a major league ballplayer must be, but I loved my dad. I just never wanted to be around him 24/7/365, which appears to be Drake LaRoche’s lot, except when he gets time off to play his Little League games.
Nor did my dad want to be my best buddy. He was my father. I was his son.
Adam LaRoche believes what he believes, and people will have their own opinion on whether that makes him Father of the Year or just another fundamentalist nutcase.
But one of the clearest statements I’ve heard on the issue comes from Sports on Earth, where Will Leitch wrote:
“If my dad tried to raise me in an electrical substation, he’d have been arrested, and rightfully so. The question is not, ‘Why isn’t Adam LaRoche allowed to have his son live in a Major League clubhouse?’ The question is, ‘How in the world did it take his team this long to make him stop?’”