Take Me Out of the Ballgame

 
675px-Adam_LaRoche_on_April_27,_2015
By Keith Allison on Flickr – Originally posted to Flickr as “Adam LaRoche“, CC BY-SA 2.0.

In addition to being a politics geek, I’m a sports nut. I love most professional sports, and I’m fortunate to have a freelance gig working on NFL radio broadcasts each fall. I love sports news and talk, so I’ve been the kind of guy who gets home, turns on ESPN, and watches Pardon the Interruption, followed by an hour or an hour-and-a-half of SportsCenter before getting onto political news.

Not so much anymore. ESPN has taken a hard turn leftward in recent years, to the point that it is just as unwatchable and biased as the mainstream news networks. Sports legends like Curt Schilling and Mike Ditka have been demoted after criticizing President Obama (who watches the network religiously). The network has promoted the Black Lives Matter movement and, last week, ESPN hired Spike Lee to do a film about racial unrest on the campus of the University of Missouri. While I still love watching live sporting events, I am less and less knowledgeable about sports news than I once was.

The other day, Cam Edwards, on his daily show [NB: The show I happen to produce, Cam and Company] mentioned an amazing story about Chicago White Sox first baseman Adam LaRoche that I had not heard before. The kind of sports story that I definitely would have heard before.

Let’s start the story in the middle, with a tweet Adam LaRoche posted on March 15th:

#FamilyFirst being an understatement.

From the AP:

Chicago White Sox first baseman Adam LaRoche said he planned to retire and walk away from a $13 million salary after being told by the team president to cut down the time his son spent in the clubhouse.

Team president Kenny Williams confirmed Wednesday that he twice asked LaRoche in the last week to “dial it back” with 14-year-old son, Drake.

LaRoche abruptly said Tuesday at spring training that he planned to leave the game. White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said at the time it was a “personal decision” and that LaRoche was asked to reconsider.

Williams said LaRoche’s son was a “quality young kid” and wasn’t a distraction. But Williams indicated he didn’t want anything to deter the team’s focus.

Ponder that for a second. Adam LaRoche walked away — walked away — from $13 million dollars, just in order to ensure that he spent more time with his son than on a baseball diamond, away from his home half the year. Not being a father myself, it’s hard for me to relate, but I don’t know if I could walk away like he did. It says a lot about LaRoche as a man, and more importantly, as a father.

This is also an important story, because fathers today get a pretty bad rap. If pop culture is a reflection of the times in which we live, television fathers have gone from strong dads like Ward Cleaver and Ben Cartwright, to ridiculous buffoons like Al Bundy and Peter Griffin. The nuclear family is seen as less and less important by more and more people every day. America is seeing staggering rates of babies born to unwed mothers:

The black community’s 72 percent rate eclipses that of most other groups: 17 percent of Asians, 29 percent of whites, 53 percent of Hispanics and 66 percent of Native Americans were born to unwed mothers in 2008, the most recent year for which government figures are available. The rate for the overall U.S. population was 41 percent.

With an overall rate of 41 percent, it’s apparent that fatherhood is not cherished as the institution it once was. Now, I am not naive enough to think that we’re going to go back to the time of Leave it to Beaver and fathers taking sons to baseball games in three-piece suits. I’m also not saying there aren’t tons of quality fathers out there. Adam LaRoche is a reminder, however, that many more boys need to be taught how to be much better men, and amazing fathers. LaRoche is of course an extreme example, but a shining one, nonetheless.

Sports are filled with plenty of bad actors, terrible stories, and fallen role models, from Ray Lewis, to Floyd Mayweather, to Lance Armstrong, to Hope Solo. People like Adam LaRoche are needles –calm down, Lance Armstrong, not those kind of needles — in the sports haystack, that both the sports and non-sports worlds could use a lot more of.

There are 38 comments.

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  1. Member

    A sobering tale, indeed. Not everyone voluntarily leaves professional sports to get killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan.

    • #1
    • March 18, 2016 at 8:12 am
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  2. Inactive

    I too love baseball. It is a great thrill this time of year when the air is still a little crisp with a touch of winter left and the sounds of bats cracking.

    • #2
    • March 18, 2016 at 8:16 am
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  3. Inactive

    La Rouche is a stand up guy. He’s been one of my favorites going back to when he was with the Nats, my team.

    • #3
    • March 18, 2016 at 8:17 am
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  4. Member

    I respect LaRoche, but he’s made 70M by age 36 playing baseball. Let’s also hear it for the dedicated fathers who bust their behinds for a whole lot less to give their kids a better life.

    • #4
    • March 18, 2016 at 8:22 am
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  5. Inactive

    Nice!

    :)

    • #5
    • March 18, 2016 at 8:29 am
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  6. Member

    I always though it was rude when people would bring their kids to the office. Granted, we’re talking about a very different workplace here.

    Anyway, LaRoche hit .207 last year so maybe it is time for retirement.

    • #6
    • March 18, 2016 at 8:29 am
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  7. Contributor
    Cameron Gray Post author

    Hoyacon:I respect LaRoche, but he’s made 70M by age 36 playing baseball. Let’s also hear it for the dedicated fathers who bust their behinds for a whole lot less to give their kids a better life.

    100% agreed, and I hope I made that clear in my article, that LaRoche is an uncommon, but great example of fatherhood.

    • #7
    • March 18, 2016 at 8:32 am
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  8. Inactive

    I love baseball way too much to ever watch ESPN’s studio yak shows. I generally avoid pre-game and post-game shows elsewhere too. Thank goodness for MLB.TV.

    LaRoche is a great guy (an MLB 1st baseman who uses E3 as his handle is pretty cool) and you can still watch him on Buck Commander on the Outdoor Channel, Cameron. He’ll be hittin’ big bucks, not baseballs though.

    • #8
    • March 18, 2016 at 8:46 am
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  9. Member

    Great father. Bad employee. I am not impressed by the fact that he basically said he gets to bring his kid to work 100% of the time or he walks.

    • #9
    • March 18, 2016 at 8:50 am
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  10. Contributor
    Cameron Gray Post author

    Mr. Dart:I love baseball way too much to ever watch ESPN’s studio yak shows. I generally avoid pre-game and post-game shows elsewhere too. Thank goodness for MLB.TV.

    LaRoche is a great guy (an MLB 1st baseman who uses E3 as his handle is pretty cool) and you can still watch him on Buck Commander on the Outdoor Channel, Cameron. He’ll be hittin’ big bucks, not baseballs though.

    Good point, Mr. Dart, he is an avid outdoorsman too.

    • #10
    • March 18, 2016 at 8:50 am
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  11. Member

    Good for him.

    • #11
    • March 18, 2016 at 8:51 am
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  12. Thatcher

    The White Sox didn’t say never. They just said not always. That said, I applaud him for sticking to his principals and walking away. And I sincerely question letting an 11,12,13 year old boy (his son is 14 and has been doing this for years) hang out on a regular basis in a locker room of professional athletes. It’s March. Why isn’t his son in school?

    • #12
    • March 18, 2016 at 9:01 am
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  13. Member

    Patrickb63:Great father. Bad employee. I am not impressed by the fact that he basically said he gets to bring his kid to work 100% of the time or he walks.

    As with a lot of stuff, it’s not easy piecing together exactly what happened. As near as I’ve been able to gather, there was discussion about this when LaRoche was considering signing with the White Sox, but only “informally.” I’ve read that Kenny Williams, the GM, recently asked LaRoche to dial things back somewhat (not exact words, but close), but LaRoche refused. There are mixed reports on how LaRoche’s son’s presence played in the clubhouse, but it seems pretty clear that he made himself useful and that at least most of the players (but perhaps not all) had no problem with it. He’s home-schooled.

    • #13
    • March 18, 2016 at 9:03 am
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  14. Inactive

    All Star pitcher Chris Sale confronted team president Kenny Williams and told him to “get out and stay out” of the Sox clubhouse.

    MLBPA President Tony Clark is looking into a grievance but, as of last night, hadn’t discussed it with Adam.

    I haven’t seen a comment from manager Robin Ventura but I have to believe he is very upset. The clubhouse is a players’ domain, even managers who were star players like Ventura respect that. Owners and front office people are seen as interlopers there even in the best of times. Players’ sons in the clubhouse are common throughout MLB. “Little Victor” Martinez is a fixture in the Tigers’ clubhouse for example. It’s nothing new either, Adam and his brother grew up in MLB clubhouses as their dad, Dave LaRoche, was a player. In fact, Adam was a “kid in the clubhouse” on teams that Robin Ventura played on.

    • #14
    • March 18, 2016 at 9:16 am
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  15. Coolidge

    Not just ESPN but ABC broadcast too. In nearly every prime time show, the non-WASP/C families are portrayed as normal, the WASP/C families have some defect, like a gay member. Sad.

    • #15
    • March 18, 2016 at 9:37 am
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  16. Inactive

    Patrickb63:Great father. Bad employee. I am not impressed by the fact that he basically said he gets to bring his kid to work 100% of the time or he walks.

    The clubhouse is home and sanctuary for a player it isn’t the workplace. A major league player is away from home from early March to mid-October. The LaRoche family lives in Kansas (IIRC) so even when Adam is playing in Chicago 81 games a season he isn’t home. It is very common for players who have young sons to have those kids around the team during ST and the regular season. They aren’t in the dugout or on the field during games and if they’re in the clubhouse they’re usually expected to help out. The analogy to having a kid in the office or job site all day only fits if the boy stands next to dad in the field during a game.

    • #16
    • March 18, 2016 at 9:46 am
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  17. Inactive

    Hoyacon: He’s home-schooled.

    From what I heard, the kid is literally there when ever he is.

    • #17
    • March 18, 2016 at 9:56 am
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  18. Member

    Colin Cowherd is another casualty of ESPN’s purge. He is what I would have always considered center left when he spoke of such things, but he wasn’t left enough. His show is now FS1 and I’ve begun watching their sports news more and more.

    • #18
    • March 18, 2016 at 9:56 am
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  19. Inactive

    Certainly agree about ESPN. Its gotten a little ridiculous. I keep feeling there is something missing from the LaRoche story. However, obviously his sons presence meant more to him than money or his career. Cant fault that. Family comes first.

    • #19
    • March 18, 2016 at 10:08 am
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  20. Member

    Great post. I’m a big baseball fan and can’t wait for the season to start. What Adam LaRoche did was stunning, but I don’t understand why the White Sox let it happen. Certainly they could have found a mutually agreeable arrangement. It doesn’t seem they talked after LaRoche was told to limit his son’s presence in the clubhouse. But more power to LaRoche for standing up for fatherhood.

    • #20
    • March 18, 2016 at 10:08 am
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  21. Member

    FightinInPhilly:The White Sox didn’t say never. They just said not always. That said, I applaud him for sticking to his principals and walking away. And I sincerely question letting an 11,12,13 year old boy (his son is 14 and has been doing this for years) hang out on a regular basis in a locker room of professional athletes. It’s March. Why isn’t his son in school?

    That’s exactly my thought, and you’re right. Hanging out with adult ballplayers all the time is not beneficial to the kid.

    • #21
    • March 18, 2016 at 10:10 am
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  22. Member

    He seems like a good father, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable for White Sox management to limit his son’s presence in the clubhouse.

    First Michael Cuddyer and now LaRoche have retired and walked away from over ten million dollars. Arod, think about it.

    • #22
    • March 18, 2016 at 10:50 am
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  23. Member

    BD:He seems like a good father, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable for White Sox management to limit his son’s presence in the clubhouse.

    First Michael Cuddyer and now LaRoche have retired and walked away from over ten million dollars. Arod, think about it.

    Ha! A-Rod is the least if concerns for the Yankees. At least he’s productive DH. Beltram is a drag with his salary and CC Sabathia has two more years at $25M per.

    • #23
    • March 18, 2016 at 11:09 am
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  24. Member

    I’ve written about Adam LaRoche before. Sad to see him leave the game, but I assume he knows what’s best for him and his career.

    • #24
    • March 18, 2016 at 11:13 am
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  25. Member

    Manny:

    FightinInPhilly:The White Sox didn’t say never. They just said not always. That said, I applaud him for sticking to his principals and walking away. And I sincerely question letting an 11,12,13 year old boy (his son is 14 and has been doing this for years) hang out on a regular basis in a locker room of professional athletes. It’s March. Why isn’t his son in school?

    That’s exactly my thought, and you’re right. Hanging out with adult ballplayers all the time is not beneficial to the kid.

    From everything I’ve read and heard (and my brother was an MLB batboy/clubhouse attendant for 6 years) hanging out with adult ballplayers all the time is not beneficial for anyone (including the ballplayers)!

    • #25
    • March 18, 2016 at 11:59 am
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  26. Member

    I can’t agree that on field during a game is a BB player’s only work-time, and if the son isn’t there then, he isn’t at work w/ Dad. Training, practice, team meetings and whatever other things a pro athlete is required by contract to do are all work time. I am not faulting him for his love for his children or his dedication to his role as a father. But I do not think the White Sox were wrong for telling him he could not bring his child to work all the time. The story I read said he was asked to limit the son’s presence to under 50% of the time at the clubhouse. This does not seem unreasonable. As the Sox are his employer, I think they have every right to set that rule. Just as he has every right to walk away if he does not want to abide by it.

    • #26
    • March 18, 2016 at 12:00 pm
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  27. Inactive

    ESPN has definitely lurched left…there are no safe spaces for conservatives!

    • #27
    • March 18, 2016 at 2:40 pm
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  28. Inactive

    Thank goodness you’re not a Knicks fan.

    • #28
    • March 18, 2016 at 5:05 pm
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  29. Inactive

    Ok, let’s all retain our business sense here. Roger Clemens insisted on having his son in the Yankee clubhouse along with a personal locker until Jeter finally put his foot down. Locker rooms are for players and not for family members.

    I hated “take your child to work day” when I worked for a corporation- even denied most favored niece the opportunity- because nobody gets any work done. After the endless national holidays and sick days … enough already.

    • #29
    • March 18, 2016 at 5:18 pm
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  30. Contributor

    Saw him play for the Braves. Great arm for a 1B. Could have been a reliever like his pop, but with harder stuff. Aside from 2012, put him in the middle-meh quintile of starting first basemen, but somehow that became a $12 million obligation for his age 36 season.

    Home-schooling and MLB? An odd combo. I suppose the kid could write a diary, Jim Brosnan for the YA set. Or slip up to the analytics office for math lessons. But watching dear old dad run up minus 24 runs above average can’t be a good thing.

    The argument over the kid was an out, not a trigger. We wouldn’t be having this discussion if he was still hitting. Last year he slashed .207/.293/.340. Embarrassing.

    The Chicago fans are delighted, already planning how to spend the cash he won’t get.

    The team must maintain control of the clubhouse. Mangers who lose control of it lose their jobs. If the MLBPA files a grievance and LaRoche goes along with it, will he still be the self-sacrificing father of the year? Or just another bad contract being settled?

    • #30
    • March 18, 2016 at 5:51 pm
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