With Opening Day looming, the retirement controversy of Chicago White Sox first baseman Adam LaRoche has not only dominated baseball headlines, but has also changed one team from baseball’s brightest future to the laughingstock of the league. The story has anger, mistrust and paternal love. Everything that makes for a quirky Hollywood script. Ladies and gentlemen, the Greatest Love Story in Baseball.
Here is the skinny: LaRoche announced his retirement on March 15th, and a day later, admitted the reason for his retirement was that White Sox Vice President Kenny Williams wanted LaRoche’s son, Drake, to be in the clubhouse less often. After that revelation, the White Sox players exposed differing opinions and came out with more details on the matter. Some of the players said that baseball is just a game; therefore, it should not be so serious in restricting players’ family members from the clubhouse. Star pitcher Chris Sale even said that Williams not only lied to the players, but should keep out of what happens in the clubhouse. The opposing opinion, and the VP’s reasoning, was that playing in the MLB is a business, since players are being paid, and restrictions like these should be made. Some players considered Drake LaRoche to be an unofficial team mascot while others anonymously said he was a nuisance. The issue, however, has less to do with his teammates and more to do with LaRoche himself. To understand why this whole situation happened in the first place, one must understand the LaRoche family.
LaRoche is a parent that does not exactly consider schooling to be a top priority for Drake, as his son has shifted from regular schooling, to homeschooling to a private tutor. Not to say that homeschooling is bad; however, the method in which he is “teaching” his son consists of him hanging around the clubhouses of whatever team LaRoche is on. This was essentially how Adam was taught too, as his father, pitcher and coach Dave LaRoche, brought his son along to spring training and on road trips. As mentioned in a 2013 Washington Post article, a lot of why LaRoche brings his son along stems from the memories that were created from when Dave brought Adam along. However, also quoted in that article was the fact that the LaRoche family was “not too big on school” and that Drake was “going to learn a lot more from the clubhouse than he [was] in the classroom, as far as life lessons.” Drake goes to school in a small town in Kansas during the offseason and is tutored at the Sylvan Learning Center during spring training. I can’t exactly say I agree with this lifestyle choice, as the train of lesson plans from school gets cut off when Drake goes to spring training, but that is not exactly the problem here.
LaRoche feels as if the clubhouse is the best form of schooling for Drake and is the best place to learn lessons as opposed to a school. Even though the players in MLB clubhouses are adults, there still is the sense that you can say and do whatever you want, which usually leads to some inappropriate topics of conversation. Obviously, every clubhouse is different, but from my experiences with sports teams, this seems to be a constant. From this experience, I cannot see how a clubhouse is a great environment in which to raise a kid, and it is apparent that VP Williams feels the same way.
In the end, an odd approach to parenthood was what did LaRoche in. While Williams should have known this when he signed the contract prior to the 2015 season, at some point, the lifestyle becomes a burden on the rest of the team. Baseball is a business, and in the business, you need to abide by a certain set of rules. If Williams lied to the team, stating that Drake was allowed in the clubhouse 100 percent of the time and then restricted him, Williams is in the wrong. However, it should be understood that the frustration of a unique parenting style came to a head, especially if the rumors that Drake is a nuisance are true. All of this being said, giving up your job due to love for your son is quite the testament to the type of father Adam is. Most athletes barely spend any time with their children, and LaRoche giving up his career to spend time with his child is a great story of a father’s love for his son. While the matter may be put to rest, it is a quirky series of events with a great lesson at the end.