Adam LaRoche of the Chicago White Sox abruptly announced his retirement last week, walking away from his team and a remaining $13 million contract, after being asked by the ball club's executive vice president Ken Williams to limit the time his son spends with him on the job and in the clubhouse.
While many have taken to social media to criticize LaRoche's decision, some of his teammates—past and present—and other MLB players have openly voiced support for him, and some have expressed anger that LaRoche was asked to "dial back" his son's access to the clubhouse.
LaRoche's 14-year-old son, Drake, had been a staple in the White Sox locker room, even getting his own locker next to his dad. The 36-year-old first baseman wanted his son to be a part of the team, and when he signed a two-year, $26 million deal for the 2015 and 2016 seasons, LaRoche said it was not a problem reaching an agreement about his son's presence.
LaRoche's own dad, Dave, played major league ball for five teams from 1970 until 1983, and has been coaching since 1984. Both Adam and his brother grew up in the ballpark and clubhouses and around MLB players. And they're hardly the first sons to have grown up tagging along with their MLB-player dads. And so, as a dad with a son, Adam LaRoche raised his son the same way, always negotiating that his son could have the same experience.
However, most MLB kids don't spend as much time in the clubhouse or on the field with the team as LaRoche's son. And, as for many working parents, things at work can change at the drop of a hat, and you have to decide how to juggle work and home responsibilities in a way you can live with.
According to USA Today, the drama began when "several players and staff members privately complained to White Sox management recently about the constant presence" of LaRoche's son. The club has essentially issued a gag order to prevent people from talking about it to the media, but sources who spoke to USA Today on the condition of anonymity told the outlet that LaRoche's son was "with the team about 120 games during the 2015 season," that he took charter flights with the team to some away games, and even participated in drills on the field with the team.
White Sox executive vice president Ken Williams reportedly met with LaRoche and asked that he "dial back" his son's presence at work. But LaRoche, who had negotiated his son's access to be with him at work in a handshake deal, continued to bring his son to work daily during spring training. That's when Williams revoked all privileges, according to USA Today. But he changed his mind about it, and asked that LaRoche cut back Drake's presence to "about half of the time."
"I understand that many people will not understand my decision. I respect that, and all I ask is for that same level of respect in return," LaRoche wrote in the statement posted on Twitter. "I live by certain values that are rooted in my faith, and I am grateful to my parents for that. I have tried to set a good example on and off the field and live a life that represents these values. As fathers, we have an opportunity to help mold our kids into men and women of character, with morals and values that can't be shaken by the world around them. Of one thing I am certain: We will regret NOT spending enough time with our kids, not the other way around."
As usual, many Internet critics love to question the parenting choices made by others, asking about LaRoche's daughter and why only his son has been a constant in the clubhouse. In a 2015 interview with the Chicago Tribune, he said the only downside to his arrangement was that he couldn't bring his daughter Montana, now 12 years old, into the clubhouse because she's a girl.
"It's unfortunate she can't come," he told the Tribune in 2015. "That's thousands of hours of time we missed together, and Drake and I get to spend it together. I try to make an effort when I am home, have off days or have evenings, to do stuff with her and spend time with her. It's a struggle, for sure."
In his statement posted on Twitter, LaRoche ended the lengthy missive by saying, "In life, we're all faced with difficult decisions and will have a choice to make. Do we act based on the consequences, or do we act on what we know and believe in our hearts to be right? I choose the latter."
But there's a silver lining for some ball players. "I think a lot of people have stepped back," White Sox outfielder Adam Eaton told USA Today. "If a man can step away from $13 million for his family and his son, what does it take for me to spend a little more time with my kid, or take a little more responsibility for my family situation?"