Adam LaRoche‘s retirement was quite a surprise as he was still under contract for $13 million and, according to reports, was looking pretty good so far this spring. Ken Rosenthal reports, however, that Laroche’s decision was not based on baseball, but on family. Specifically: that White Sox Executive Vice President Ken Williams said that Laroche could no longer bring his 14-year-old son, Drake, into the White Sox clubhouse as often as he typically did. This is underscored by a tweet from Laroche’s brother, former Major Leaguer Andy Laroche which is consistent with the report.
On the surface this seems like a pretty heartless thing for Williams to do. Players’ kids — older ones anyway — can often be seen in major league clubhouses and shagging fly balls before games, so why was Laroche’s son an issue?
According to Kenny Williams it wasn’t that Laroche wanted his son in the clubhouse as such. It was because he wanted him in the clubhouse every single day:
It seems clear that Laroche’s son’s presence was far greater than one usually sees from players’ kids. Last summer Colleen Kane of the Chicago Tribune wrote an article about Drake Laroche’s constant presence in the clubhouse. And on road trips as well. He was described as a “fixture” in the White Sox’ clubhouse and Adam Laroche referred to him as “the 26th man.” There were a couple of passages in the story which suggested that this was unusual and perhaps not universally well-received:
Players’ children are often seen around ballparks, but few major-league kids have an arrangement like Drake’s, which also includes occasional road trips, and LaRoche said not every organization would embrace it like the Sox have.
The Sox seemed to embrace it last year. They embrace it less now, it seems. We’ve talked a lot lately about the personal lives of players. We’ve also talked about the nature and, in some cases, sanctity of the clubhouse in the eyes of players. There are a lot of competing interests here, many of them emotional. It’s possible that Drake’s presence was wearing thin. It’s likewise possible that communication with Laroche on this point was lacking in some way, either from his end, the White Sox’ end or some combination.
In the meantime, expect this to be a big source of debate around baseball. Indeed, at least one player outside of the Laroche family has already taken a side:
Not that anyone ever overreacts to what Bryce Harper has to say.
*Note: an earlier version of this story referred to the White Sox “barring” Drake Laroche from the clubhouse. That was written before Kenny Williams’ comments on the matter. As such, the story has been revised.