There is nothing quite like the first warm spring day after a cold and dark winter, letting us know that turkey season, the NRA Annual Meetings and the return of baseball are just around the corner. This spring may feature a couple more turkey hunters than last year and one fewer baseball player, as Chicago White Sox first baseman and Buck Commander Adam LaRoche has retired after being told by the front office that his 14-year-old son wasn’t welcome in the clubhouse this season, forfeiting a $13 million paycheck in the process.
Cameron Gray, my colleague at NRA News, wrote a great piece for Ricochet about LaRoche’s decision and what it says about the importance of fatherhood, but I’ve also seen plenty of criticism for LaRoche, including (maybe especially is a better word) in the Chicago press. He’s selfish, or his sacrifice doesn’t mean much because he could apparently give up millions of dollars without it being a financial hardship, or he’s just spoiling his already privileged kid … or so we are told.
At the same time, many White Sox players like Chris Sale and Adam Eaton have praised LaRoche for his decision, and have lauded LaRoche’s son Drake as well, with Eaton going so far as to say that Drake was a clubhouse leader. Clearly the move by White Sox Executive Vice President Ken Williams has left a substantial portion of the clubhouse angry and confused.
Adam LaRoche doesn’t seem confused though. As he said in a message on Twitter, “I understand that many people will not understand my decision. I respect that, and all I ask is for that same level of respect in return. I live by certain values that are rooted in my faith, and I am grateful to my parents for that. I have tried to set a good example on and off the field and live a life that represents these values. 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. Of one thing I am certain: We will regret NOT spending enough time with our kids, not the other way around.”
It’s true that not all of us can walk away from a job that takes us away from our children for a long period of time. Not all of us can take our kids with us to work on a regular basis. That’s not the point, quite frankly. The point is that we can all hold our kids (and our roles as parents) as central to our lives. Our sacrifices may be different, because all of our situations are different. But the reason for those sacrifices is the same: Our kids are important. Being with them whenever we can is important (for us grownups, too, not just our children). Being a professional baseball player is an important job, but being a good dad is an awesome responsibility.
For LaRoche and for millions of other parents, part of shaping children into men and women of character involves teaching them about the outdoors, conservation, and the benefits and responsibilities that come with being a hunter.
If Adam and Drake LaRoche can’t spend time together in a clubhouse this spring, I hope they find themselves in a blind somewhere, calling in gobblers and enjoying the precious gift of time together. LaRoche left us with a hefty highlight reel (1,452 hits, 255 homeruns, 882 RBI), but it’s nothing compared to the unforgettable moments he’s forging with his family in the field.