Mac Engel

MLB would be wise to encourage more kids in the clubhouse

Adam LaRoche sits with his son Drake in the dugout before a game last season. LaRoche retired Wednesday after the Chicago White Sox asked him to quit bringing his son to the clubhouse so often.
Adam LaRoche sits with his son Drake in the dugout before a game last season. LaRoche retired Wednesday after the Chicago White Sox asked him to quit bringing his son to the clubhouse so often. TNS

One of the more traditional sights at spring training are the little kids dressed in the same uniform as their ball-playing dads.

Prince Fielder’s kids are regulars in the Rangers’ clubhouse. Shin Soo Cho brings his kids around, too.

It’s harmless and usually undeniably cute.

It’s one of those unwritten things about spring training baseball — many days are bring your kid to work days.

Except now. The Chicago White Sox caused a stir when it took exception to this tradition by telling first baseman Adam LaRoche to stop bringing his son around the clubhouse so much.

Rather than comply, LaRoche, 36, retired. He walked away from a $13 million salary this season.

Both sides are right, but White Sox executive vice president Kenny Williams is going to regret this one.

“Tell me where in America you can bring your child to work every day,” Williams told USA Today. “And how can you manage it? How can you manage the next guy? And the next guy. That’s not fair.”

He is correct. It is baseball, but a big-league ballpark is a place of business.

Most pro sports teams have rules about family members in the locker room, and normally the stance is zero are allowed.

Every team should be doing everything it can to encourage — rather than deter — that kids are around their dads.

Without getting into specifics, Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said the club does have a policy and that he wants the Rangers to be a “family friendly” organization.

If we are to believe that at the end of our lives all that matters is family, friends and loved ones, we should all be taking our kids to work more or simply doing what we can to work less.

As the standard cliche goes, approximately no one at the end of their lives says, “I wish I had worked more.” The bigger regrets are worrying too much and not spending more time with loved ones.

We normally fail to do either because the routine of right now prevents us from acting on common sense.

Part of the immediate aftermath of 9/11 was millions of Americans proclaiming they had discovered a different perspective and were going to do just that: worry less and spend more time with loved ones. One of the painful reminders of that generational-changing day was that life can be taken at any moment.

That lesson lasted a good three months.

If “how you spend your days” is “how you spend your life” most of us would agree we do too much that takes us from those who matter the most. Those who matter the least too often get our best. Those who matter the most often get our worst.

Sometimes we simply have to in order to make it all work.

LaRoche simply tried to have the best of both and he was told to cool it.

When I was in the White Sox clubhouse on Monday morning, it was no different than any other big league clubhouse. A bunch of dudes playing cards, playing with their phones, watching TV or scratching themselves.

There was swearing and some guys changing clothes. A big-league clubhouse is a place for adults. The irony, of course, is that the adults are behaving like children.

When a kid enters this environment, the cursing stops and the guys modify their language and actions for the young eyes and ears that somehow see, hear and remember everything.

For the other members of the White Sox, asking LaRoche not to bring his kid around every day is not unfair.

It is not a coincidence that the White Sox took exception to LaRoche’s practice the spring after the season he batted .207 and is entering the final year of his contract.

If he were batting .280, hitting 25 home runs and driving in 85 runs, Williams would not have said a word.

It’s wonderful LaRoche, Fielder, Choo or any dad wants their kids around so much. Parenting isn’t just for moms.

Too often pro jocks are painted as absentee dads who dodge their roles as parents or simply just send a check. When these guys are involved the last thing that should be erected are barriers.

What the White Sox are doing is not unreasonable but it’s a little wall, and Mexico is not going to pay for it.

Of all the sports, baseball is loaded with hypocrites when it comes to family. Many baseball guys will say family is the most important thing, but they do a job that requires being gone nearly eight months out of the year and they often live in a different city.

Then they are scratch golfers. And they go to winter ball for two months.

Don’t penalize the guys that don’t avoid their families. Envy them.

Adam LaRoche wants to be around his kid and there is a middle ground between himself and the White Sox.

A middle ground not just for LaRoche but for every ball-playing dad who wants to spend time with his kids.

At the end of his life, LaRoche is going to remember and cherish those moments more than any of the rest.

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