Should kids be allowed in a Major League clubhouse? The testimony of Adam LaRoche to Christian fathers.
With the Adam LaRoche situation going on, I thought I’d weigh in. If you’re not familiar with the situation, LaRoche was about to begin his thirteenth year as a Major League Baseball player. That might not sound like a long time to some, but it’s about two-in-half times longer than the average MLB career. Just before LaRoche made his MLB debut, he had a son, Drake. At some point in LaRoche’s career, Drake began accompanying him to the field. When I played, this was a common occurrence. Guys brought their kids to park all the time. I mean what kid and dad wouldn’t love that!? I often thought it would be cool to have my son on the field before games, throwing the ball around, and enjoying a once in a lifetime experience.
From 2011-2014, LaRoche played for the Washington Nationals. Drake would’ve been nine to twelve during that time. It’s been reported that Drake spent nearly every day at the park with his dad. Drake was a welcomed part of the team (many players recently interviewed called him the team’s mascot in the most honoring way). He had his own locker space and helped the coaches gather balls during batting practice. From all accounts, Drake was a pleasure to have around (I’m guessing there might be more to come this part of this story).
In my years, I never encountered anyone’s kid around all the time, nor were kids in the clubhouse (a really nice locker room) or near or in the dugout during games. This doesn’t make the team or LaRoche wrong for allowing Drake to do so. In fact, it’s been reported by LaRoche that Drake’s significant presence was agreed upon before he signed his contract with the White Sox.
Spring training for all MLB teams recently began, and the season kicks off in a couple weeks. LaRoche and Drake showed up at the White Sox spring training site in Glendale AZ. LaRoche went about his daily duty in preparation for the beginning of the season. Drake joined him every day, helping out where he was needed.
After a few weeks of training, Ken Williams, the Vice President of the White Sox, approached LaRoche and asked him to “tone down” Drake’s presence. He told LaRoche that he needed to pick something between zero and fifty percent, adding that fifty percent was still too much.
LaRoche, frustrated by this, decided to retire rather than acquiescing. He claims that Drake’s presence was agreed upon before he signed his two-year contract with White Sox. Making special side agreements is a very normal thing for players, especially those with as much service time as LaRoche. His retirement meant LaRoche was giving up a career he’d obviously worked hard for, but also his salary of thirteen million dollars.
My covering this topic is not necessarily to take sides. Although, if it was agreed to that Drake was allowed to be present all the time, then the White Sox should honor that agreement. LaRoche has indicated that he wouldn’t have signed with the team otherwise. Certainly the team has the right to change their policy, but the player then has the right to do what he feels necessary based on his employer’s change of policy. My guess is that there was nothing contractual about Drake’s presence and it was just a handshake deal. The White Sox probably never asked if Drake would be there every day, and LaRoche probably never thought to be that specific (I’m also guessing there’s more to come concerning this part of the story).
My focus in this blog post is on LaRoche’s letter he wrote in response to his abrupt retirement. It’s a letter that very transparently conveys his thoughts on the matter. It’s very well written and narrows the issue between him and Williams, calling it a “fundamental disagreement.” Reading the letter, I thought it was well written. It is focused, sensitive, and without the typical ridicule that accompanies a celebrity’s wrongful termination letter; although, LaRoche is not claiming wrongful termination.
Furthermore, as I read his letter, I began to notice accents of Christianity that got stronger as the letter progressed. He claims a faith; although, he never actually says Christianity or names Christ (“I live by certain values that are rooted in my faith, and I am grateful to my parents for that”). His leaving out the specifics is not a criticism. This issue is not about being persecuted or something like it — it’s a moral matter for LaRoche. In other words, there is a right and wrong way to parent, and he is standing up for what he thinks is the right way to do it, even if it did cost him the continuation of his career, his team’s playoff chances, criticism from many for supposedly quitting on his team, not to mention thirteen million dollars.
LaRoche shares three great thoughts in his letter. One about time, one about correctly fathering, and one about the overarching ethic of Christianity.
The first claim is about the time a father should spend with their kids. LaRoche declares, “Of one thing I am certain: we will regret NOT spending enough time with our kids, not the other way around.” I can’t help but think of the many fathers, including my own, that choose work, money, sports, and/or the desire to be alone in their mancave over spending quality time with their kids. I would add to his assertion that while parents will miss out on the time spent with their kids, the kids will be seriously wounded by a father’s choice not to spend quality time loving, caring, and helping them live in this difficult world.
Second, LaRoche claims “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.” His claim is at the heart of Deuteronomy 6. The point of that passage is this: Father’s, pastor your children and cultivate an obedience to the Word because it produces a proper fear of the Lord and establishes an environment for you to gently help them with their faults and responsibilities in life. This is not a statement we hear very often from fathers, but LaRoche clearly understands the importance of his role in his kids’ lives.
Lastly, LaRoche gives us the overarching ethic that he tries to live by: “trust that the Lord is in control and that I was put here to do more than play the game of baseball. We are called to live life with an unwavering love for God and love for each other.” Again, we find another statement not usually heard in letters of this type. Athletes will commonly give thanks to God, but it’s usually not combined with such specificity, that is, theological specificity.
We find, yet again, another example of God’s covenant blessing being handed down to the children of His people. LaRoche testifies to his parents’ modeling and sharing those covenant promises with him. It’s not clear whether Drake has confessed his sin and believed on Jesus Christ as his Savior, but one thing is for sure — he’s enjoying the blessings of being a covenant child of LaRoche.
LaRoche provides Christian fathers a great example of putting God’s Word before our own desires and the desires of others. We should give thanks to God for His blessing of children, and may we not waste the time we have with Him or them. Christian father’s, God has blessed us with the great responsibility to shepherd our children and that means we should raise them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Eph. 6:4) — and that takes a lot of quality time no matter the cost, as LaRoche has taught us.
For now, the White Sox are hopeful that LaRoche will return to the team (he has signed the appropriate retirement documents, but the team has yet to file them with MLB in the hopes he will change his mind). You can’t blame them. The standard by which he tries to conduct himself is an obvious blessing to those around him. However, it’s not only a blessing to his team but to his family. LaRoche has taught us much from this situation. Most importantly, he’s put God’s Word to shepherd his son over that of money, celebrity, sport, his own desires, and the desires of others. Father’s, consider these encouraging words from a great athlete but a better father.