Since the games being played this month don’t count, every story gets put under the microscope. So when Adam LaRoche suddenly retired because he couldn’t bring his son with him to spring training, everyone felt the need to share their opinion. Throughout all the fuss, Lisa Carney wonders why not just let the LaRoches stay?
By now the entire baseball world has heard the story of Chicago White Sox designated hitter Adam LaRoche and his thirteen million dollar stand to have his son with him at spring training in Arizona. Everyone from current players to retired guys, and even players from other sports, have taken to social media in support of LaRoche’s decision.
So why are their lockers now cleaned out and waiting for some heartless dad intent on keeping things strictly business to come in and occupy them? Because Kenny Williams is a big giant meanie who might even secretly hope Big Bird chokes on sunflower seeds and we can get over all those superfluous things related to childhood.
Okay, so that might be a little over the top and we’ll let others argue the banal details of the business of baseball that Williams is hiding behind. The point everyone is trying to wrap their head around is, what’s the big deal if the kid stays?
Once the regular season starts, baseball players live in a strange dichotomy. Compared to traditional 9-5 employees, they have crazy amounts of downtime on their hands. Unfortunately, a large percentage of that time is spent on the road and far away from the everyday lives of their friends and families. Today’s world of FaceTime and Skype can help keep a family close, but nothing replaces a big, strong hug from your dad at the end of a tough day – something baseball kids learn to live without for at least 81 games a year. Why not let them see their dads in person when it is possible? That’s what the foundation of a strong parent-child relationship.is built upon.
Arguably one of the saddest stories to come out of country music, and that’s a humongous pile of sad stories to sift through, is the childhood of Tim McGraw. Tim has even referenced himself as a “Triple A accident” and can recall his spooky habit of decorating his bureau with Tug McGraw baseball cards long before he was enlightened by his mom and stepdad that his last name wasn’t Smith – it was McGraw, and those baseball cards represented his dad’s career. Tim and Tug missed decades of father-son experiences and their reunion was cut short after Tug lost his battle lost his battle with brain cancer in 2004. Funny thing, the Phillies never disciplined or publicly chastised Tug for being an absentee dad who had to be cajoled into paying for his Triple A accident’s college education.
Williams defended his actions by saying that the White Sox want to reduce the amount of time LaRoche’s son is permitted in the clubhouse by 50 percent, and added that most workplaces don’t allow employees to bring their kids to work. But isn’t one of the most endearing qualities of a general manager staying ahead of the curve on mainstream ideas? The fact that Williams had to throw in the qualifier “most” workplaces indicates that it is done in some venues. Take a tour of a local firehouse and you’ll see firefighters of both genders working side by side with their sons and daughters. Sons and daughters who grew up in the firehouse because that’s where mom or dad spends 50% of their life, and kids need to be around their parents.
This isn’t exactly a new concept in baseball, especially when it comes to spring training. David Ortiz’s son D’Angelo parlayed one spring training appearance after another into a nice little NESN gig and his buddy Victor Jose Martinez (Victor Martinez’s son) developed a unique friendship with then Red Sox manager, Terry Francona. It’s not a big leap to say Francona’s easy way with kids developed from hanging out at the ballpark during his father’s playing days.
Francona recalls that there were rules he had to follow. Kids weren’t allowed in the clubhouse, so Francona relished every minute he could on the field or in the stands. This may have led to the adult version of Tito making some of his own rules. One very important rule that his players’ kids were required to follow was that anybody coming to the park with their dad had to stop by and say “Hi” to the skipper. He wanted them to feel welcome, and he also wanted them to understand the hierarchy of the game. Francona was the boss; be polite and do the right thing, and you can stay. Tito was also mindful of the needs of the guys whose children weren’t hanging around. For instance, he knew a player might have just had a gut-wrenching, emotional game and was in need of some personal space. In Francona’s words, “I explained to [their dads], though, that they have a responsibility to make sure that the kids are behaving themselves and doing what they’re supposed to be. After a game, if we lost, you have to remember the guy sitting next to you might have got the loss as a pitcher. You don’t want some kid firing a wiffle ball at his head.”
Even non-superstar parents will describe similar experiences, trying to get their young offspring to behave in any restaurant rated a step above McDonalds. If you want to teach your kids to be decent adults, you have to spend time with them. Children don’t grow socially on the advice of frequent memos. They need time, attention, and big, giant hugs from their dads.
So here’s hoping the backlash from around sports and society in general leads Kenny Williams to soften his stance. Maybe it’s too late for the LaRoche gents to come back, but sure as rain there will be other young lads and lasses who will want to be around their dads and this great, family-based game of baseball as much as possible. It’s a far better world if the dads let that happen. So for all of them, everywhere – Let him stay!
Read why Justin Gorman thinks that Kenny Williams was in the right here, and find out why Jimmy Wulf believes that both sides share some of the blame in this situation.
Lisa Carney has written about the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry, Pedro Martinez, and a Yankees legend who can’t keep his trap shut.
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