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Adam LaRoche makes the decision all Dads (well, maybe just good ones) wish they could

For the last few years, Adam LaRoche has brought his son Drake to the ballpark with him pretty much every day. The teams he’s been on (the Nationals from 2011 to 2014 and the White Sox last year) accepted him as their own and have affectionately referred to Adam’s son Drake as their “26th man.”

After the Nationals won the National League East in 2012 and the team celebrated with beer and champagne, Drake and 19-year-old phenom Bryce Harper drank sparkling grape juice in the corner and watched the adults celebrate. That’s just one of a number of stories that have come out in the wake of this story about how Drake was accepted by his father’s teams.

So by all accounts, Drake was beloved by the majority of guys on the team, was well behaved, and helped out around the clubhouse with cleaning cleats, picking up baseballs, and doing laundry like the teenagers who worked in the clubhouse would. He had a locker next to his father complete with a uniform and everything. Players who have been on teams with Adam have all spoken positively about Drake’s presence, so it’s important to note that this isn’t a kid who was causing problems. He’d been around a Major League clubhouse for years and knew what was expected of him.

This spring though, White Sox Executive Vice President Kenny Williams had a couple conversations with LaRoche about bringing his son to the ballpark less often so that the team could focus on baseball. As Williams phrases it, “one of the things we said coming into this season is ‘let’s check all the columns’ with regards to our preparation, our focus to give us every chance to win.”

Williams must have pushed the issue in the latter conversation because afterwards LaRoche decided to step away from the game of baseball, likely forfeiting his $13 million salary for 2016. After the decision, there was a contentious team meeting about it, which prompted anger from the team that included a verbal tirade from the White Sox’s pitching ace Chris Sale directed at Williams and talk of a boycott of yesterday’s game.

There has been a lot written wondering why LaRoche would let this decision cause him to retire. But if you think that, I believe you’re looking at the situation backwards. When you flip it, everything makes a lot more sense.

Consider that last year, LaRoche endured the worst season of his career, statistically. He also reportedly considered retiring over the winter, but made the decision to return for 2016. I believe his decision was based on the idea that he could share this experience with his son at least one more time.
Adam grew up around a Major League clubhouse himself. His father Dave pitched in the Majors for 14 seasons. Adam remembers hanging around with the clubhouse with his brother Andy and spending time with the team fondly. It was obviously a special experience for him and one he enjoyed the opportunity to give to his son.

And after spending the last few years of his career with Drake at his side, I can imagine he didn’t want to do it any other way.

In the end, Adam decided that spending a bunch of time with his son was more important to him than $13 million. If only we were all so lucky to be able to make that decision.

Since the reasoning for LaRoche’s decision became public yesterday, there has been a lot written defending the White Sox’s decision. Some say that the White Sox didn’t say that he couldn’t bring Drake sometimes, just not all the time. But the way this entire discussion has been framed by the White Sox’s upper management — even if they’re saying the opposite — is that they viewed Drake as a distraction to the team.

Some say that LaRoche is being selfish by walking away and robbing his son of even half the experience. That Drake will now blame himself as the reason why his father isn’t playing anymore. That he could have been more flexible. All may be true, but when you look at it the way I’m suggesting it went down, things make a lot more sense and these arguments don’t hold up.
Some have even called LaRoche a quitter for leaving the team. Doesn’t he know that trying to win a World Series — I wonder if the guy wrote his column with a straight face when he typed that — is more important than spending time with his son? Talk about a guy with screwed up priorities. Geez.
Williams defended the decision by asking how many workplaces allow you to take your kid to work every day. That defense rings hollow to me though. A Major League clubhouse isn’t your typical workplace. It isn’t an office job. It isn’t your kid tagging along while you wait tables. That’s an important distinction to make in this situation.

Williams says that the decision wasn’t made because Drake was a distraction to the team, but in the same breath he adds that he wanted to make sure they “checked all the boxes” as far as focusing on preparation for the season. So if Drake wasn’t a distraction, why was limiting his access part of checking the boxes of focusing on preparation?

LaRoche understood the implication of the White Sox’s decision.

There is also the argument that Williams is just being the bad guy for a teammate who was uncomfortable going directly to LaRoche with the issue. But if that’s the case, that speaks to a much larger clubhouse issue than a 14 year old coming to work with his Dad. White Sox players have said that that isn’t the case.

Maybe I’m biased though. Some of my favorite memories as a kid were tagging along with my Dad to work. Playing on his computer. Drawing on white boards (they’re awesome!!). In later years as I got older, I’d come in and do repetitive grunt work and help out.

I feel like it was an important part of my development as a person to get the opportunity to see that my Dad was more than just my Dad. Seeing him in his element. Seeing my Dad in those different situations shaped many of the principles that I operate my life by now.

Those are experiences I want to give my kid. My son was at my office yesterday actually, coincidentally, just after the story broke. He was walking around the office, giving everyone high fives, and playing with a co-worker’s stuffed panda. He and I sat at my desk for a minute or two and he was asking what everything was.

So I get it. In many ways I can understand Adam LaRoche’s thought process and decision here. If Drake had been a problem or a distraction, I can understand the team wanting to restrict his access and the response from the rest of the players and LaRoche would have been very different. But by all accounts he wasn’t. And furthermore, the team told him when he signed that it wouldn’t be an issue for him to have Drake around.

Some have called Drake the loser here. I call him the winner. His Dad just showed the world — and actions speak louder than words — that spending time with him was more important than getting paid $13 million or a shot at a World Series ring. And what kid wouldn’t want that?
I hope that some day I find myself in a situation where I can turn down $13 million to spend time with my kid.

About Author Mohamed Abu 'l-Gharaniq

when an unknown printer took a galley of type and scrambled it to make a type specimen book. It has survived not only five centuries.

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