CHICAGO (FOX 32 / AP) — Told to cut down his son's time in the clubhouse, Chicago White Sox first baseman Adam LaRoche took a different path: He said he planned to retire and walk away from a $13 million salary.
White Sox President Kenny Williams confirmed Wednesday that he twice asked LaRoche in the last week to "dial it back" with his 14-year-old son.
Williams said Drake LaRoche was a "quality young kid" and not a distraction. But he indicated he didn't want anything to deter the team's focus this season.
"Sometimes you have to make decisions in this world that are unpopular," Williams said before Chicago played Milwaukee.
The situation quickly bubbled up around spring training and was likely to stir debate beyond the sport. At issue, what's a proper take-your-kid-to-work environment?
No word, yet, on what LaRoche would ultimately do or how the White Sox would fill his spot if he never comes back.
The 36-year-old said Tuesday that he abruptly planned to leave the game. White Sox general manager Rick Hahn termed it a "personal decision" without elaborating and LaRoche was asked to reconsider.
LaRoche drew plenty of support from fellow players. He's is in his second year with the White Sox, his sixth team overall.
"Good for you Roche!" tweeted former teammate Bryce Harper, the reigning National League MVP. "Nothing like father and son in the clubhouse..It's a FAMILY game."
LaRoche knows about that. He grew up in a big league setting, his father and brother both played in the majors.
All over baseball, it's been big league culture to see sons in the clubhouse and on the field with their dads for early pregame practice. Ken Griffey Jr., Cal Ripken Jr. and Prince Fielder are among the many stars who came up that way.
Different teams have had different rules. Some clubs allowed kids in the clubhouse after Sunday games, provided they won.
"On our side of things, I think everyone would say we enjoyed Drake LaRoche in the clubhouse and everything he brought to the clubhouse," White Sox outfielder Adam Eaton said. "He helped out around and wasn't a burden by any stretch of the imagination. He wasn't a big problem last year, either."
"Adam and Drake are probably the most respected people in baseball I ever played with. Drake would clean cleats, he would help out in drills, pick up baseballs when we needed, he didn't say boo to anybody and was never a trouble in the clubhouse," he said.
Said Williams: "I want to be very clear on something. It's not because the young man was a distraction, not because he wasn't well-received or well-liked by players management and everyone else."
"He's a quality, quality young kid that one day might be a heck of a player one day," he added. "Anyway, 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."
That led to Williams speaking with LaRoche, who hit only .207 with 12 home runs last season.
"To have his child on the field 100 percent of the time, and that's kind of where we were, every day, yeah, I asked him initially just dial it back. Even 50 percent is probably too much, but there is a wide range between zero and 50 percent," he said.
"I was a little surprised at the stance that he took. It's unfortunate. But talk about a quality decision, a life decision and a family decision. He talked about being there for his family and family first and front and center, and I respect and admire that," he said.
The White Sox, out of the playoffs since 2008, made several moves in the offseason in hope of greatly improving their 76-86 record. No telling for sure whether LaRoche will be part of that effort.
"He seemed pretty convicted in his decision," Williams said, adding, "he didn't come back to talk to me about it before he made the decision. I thought there was enough flexibility built in."
Williams emphasized that he thought "it's great" to have kids around a team. "I just don't think it's great every day," he said.
Matt Speigel of WSCR Radio says most of the callers to the score agree with White Sox President Kenny Williams' decision to ask LaRoche to cut back on taking his son to the ballpark.
"This seems excessive. It seems selfish. And it seems strange,” said Spiegel.
Veteran sportswriter Barry Rozner says it's likely some players complained.
"I do believe there were some players, maybe some new players, who came in and said 'this is an odd clubhouse. There's some weird things going on here. I'm not sure the focus is where it should be and maybe some changes ought to be made,'" Rozner said.
Bringing kids to work is nothing new. In fact, there's a day to encourage it. But workplace consultant John Challenger says most companies put tight limits on it.
"They need to create an environment where productivity is going to be consistently high. And if you're always going to be interrupted by someone else's child, or say you had everybody's children in the workplace, how would work ever get done?" Challenger said.
At Schaller's Pump in Bridgeport in the shadow of The Cell, Sox fans are split.
"I think baseball has forever been a family sport, so I get why he wants his son in the clubhouse,” one woman said.
"I think it's awesome for the kid. Imagine if you were a kid of a White Sox player and you got to hang out with major league baseball greats every single day,” a man added.
I'm gonna have to side with the White Sox. First of all they're his employer. And second the kid should be in school,” another man said.
Some believe LaRoche was looking for an excuse to retire and is doing his child no favors.
"If I'm Adam LaRoche I would not have done this and put the onus on my child. Because even if it gets painted as an honorable family move, at some point if I'm Drake LaRoche I'm thinking my dad quit baseball for me. And I have a little sense of guilt possibly. A little sense of responsibility. That is not a fair thing to do as a kid,” Spiegel said.