If you want to see Texas Rangers slugger Prince Fielder cry, make him tell his sons they can no longer hang out with him in the clubhouse.
The idea of having to do that, Fielder said, would break his heart.
“If I had to break it to him and say, ‘hey, you can’t come with me anymore,’ I think I’d cry more than him, just seeing his face.”
That’s not going to happen, of course, not in the Rangers clubhouse, which is often full of players’ sons, including the sons of Yu Darvish, Shin-Soo Choo, Colby Lewis and Adrian Beltre.
Sons visiting the clubhouse was the topic du jour in the wake of Adam LaRoche announcing his retirement from the Chicago White Sox after being told by team president Kenny Williams to cut back the access he was giving his 14-year-old son.
Manager Jeff Banister, who grew up with a high school coach father, said the club has guidelines regarding bringing kids into the clubhouse. The rules go for everybody, including players, staff and front office personnel.
“There are limitations, boundaries and guidelines we do go by,” he said. “But our industry is not like any other industry.”
Banister takes exception to some who have weighed in on the topic with the stance that kids don’t belong, while equating a major league player’s job to somebody working 9 to 5 in an office.
“If that’s the case, then why did I have my dad as a teacher? Could I not ride to school and show up at the same high school as my dad? Or was I supposed to go to another school?” said Banister, who was also taught by his mother in junior high.
Beltre, who routinely has his 9-year-old son Adrian Jr. with him in the clubhouse, said the rules are well known. Neither Beltre nor Colby Lewis recall a time when a player’s kids became an issue in a clubhouse.
“As a team we try not to cross those rules and keep it acceptable for everybody,” Beltre said.
The main two rules are as obvious as you’d expect: acting respectable and quiet while in the locker room and the clubhouse being cleared of all family 90 minutes before a game.
Lewis, who said he’s admittedly strict with his kids when they’re in the clubhouse, said he can understand both sides of the argument. “This is guys’ livelihoods and I’m sure that’s how Kenny is looking at it. You don’t bring your kid if you have a 9 to 5. My brother is a business owner so I know. He’d be like, ‘no, absolutely not.’ ”
But Lewis also knows the timing of the request of LaRoche seems odd. Why do it halfway through spring training?
“It’s been going on forever,” Lewis said. “Maybe it would be different if you’re in the middle of pennant race in September and the kid is running around being crazy.”
That’s never been the case with Rangers kids. They’re always well-behaved inside the clubhouse, at least when media is around.
Banister said he encourages the family time because of the nature of the job and the family atmosphere he wants cultivated in the clubhouse.
“Our kids and families have to share us with absolutely everybody,” he said. “For our guys to be able to monitor that and have a healthy balance with their own family and the ability to bring their family to the ballpark and allow them to see and be part of, yet have limitations at times because it is a serious business. There is a time, when it’s ‘let’s go to work.’ I think we do a great job of that here where we find that balance.”
For Beltre and Fielder, the clubhouse time is a privilege for both them and their sons. Neither are above using it as a way of motivating their sons to do their homework, treat their mothers well and do their chores.
“I always tell him if he doesn’t do well in school he’s not going to have the privilege to come with me,” Beltre said. “He knows if he doesn’t do his homework he cannot go hit batting practice with me. I try to keep him motivated.”
Fielder, who like Delino DeShields, grew up largely in a big-league clubhouse, knows firsthand how much his kids love being around their dad. And he gets to be be with them.
“We’re never around as much as we want to be because we’re working, so I think this is the best [alternative]. Bring them to work and enjoy them a little bit. Once they get dressed, they’re on their own. They know to be good and get out of the way and if they need something they come get me.”
Like Fielder, Beltre said sharing time at work with his son is something any good dad would do.
“My son just enjoys being around me and being around baseball players and I understand that,” he said. “I want to give him that experience. If he gets to play ball when he’s big and has a chance to sign and play in the big leagues it won’t be something new to him. He’s been here, it’ll be easy for him to acclimate to the environment. I see how much he enjoys it and that’s a joy for me.”
And that’s what Banister tries to foster.
“We share our families. This is our family. Our extended family is their family. That is the nature of what we do,” he said. “We celebrate birthdays together, anniversaries together, we, unfortunately, bury family members together. We hurt together and we have joy together and we celebrate together.”