In Focus: Kids at Work

Major League Baseball's Adam LaRoche retires after White Sox try to limit how often he takes his son to work

By Lacy Lusk Mar 17, 2016
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​​​​Ad​am LaRoche

Adam LaRoche, a designated hitter/first baseman for the Chicago White Sox, decided to retire from baseball after a 12-year career, reportedly over the team’s request to limit his 14-year-old son Drake’s access to the clubhouse. LaRoche would have made $13 million this year, whether he made the team out of spring training or not.

(Chicago Tribune) (ESPN)

Athletes Show Their Support for Family-First Decision

The 36-year-old LaRoche told his teammates Tuesday at spring training in Arizona that he was leaving because of a family matter. They reportedly tried to talk him out of the decision and, according to ESPN, considered boycotting their spring training game Wednesday. 

(ABC 7 News)

LaRoche used a hashtag #FamilyFirst on Twitter to refer to his retirement, and athletes from around the sports world have followed suit. Among them was former Washington Nationals teammate Bryce Harper, the 2015 National League Most Valuable Player, who tweeted “Good for you Roche! Nothing like father and son in the clubhouse..It's a FAMILY game.”

(SportsIllustrated.com)

A Father-and-Son Game for the LaRoches

Adam LaRoche, whose father Dave pitched in the big leagues from 1970 to 1983, grew up around the game and wanted a similar life for Drake, who was called the “26th man” by several of LaRoche’s teammates.

LaRoche told the Washington Post in 2013, “We’re not big on school. I told my wife, ‘He’s going to learn a lot more useful information in the clubhouse than he will in the classroom, as far as life lessons.’ ”

(Washington Post)

Bringing your child to work—even to jobs outside of baseball—may not be as uncommon as you’d think, according to www.babiesatwork.org, a web site maintained by the Utah-based Parenting in the Workplace Institute (PWI). More than 1,600 babies have graced work cubicles, offices and meeting rooms of 147 companies since 2005, according to PWI, whose web site contains resources, sample contracts and a list of organizations that offer this employee benefit.

(SHRM Online

How Often Is Too Often?

Employers who allow children to accompany their parents to work will need to be clear about where and when children are allowed. A sample policy from SHRM reads: The presence of children in the workplace with the employee parent during the employee’s workday is inappropriate and is to be avoided except in emergency situations. This policy is established to avoid disruptions in job duties of the employee and co-workers, reduce property liability, and help maintain the company’s professional work environment.

(SHRM Online)

LaRoche had said White Sox Manager Robin Ventura, in charge of the team on the field, approved of Drake’s daily presence in the clubhouse.

However, Executive Vice President Kenny Williams, Chicago’s leader in the front office, reportedly went to LaRoche earlier this week and tried to come up with a compromise. Drake reportedly spends part of the year in a traditional school and part in home school.

Chicago was coming off a season in which it finished fourth out of five teams in the American League Central Division. LaRoche hit just .207 in 429 at-bats. A Gold Glove-winning first baseman with the Atlanta Braves in 2012, he also played less in the field (48 games at first base) than as a designated hitter (74 games).

Drake, meanwhile, was a daily presence in the clubhouse, as he has been for years on LaRoche’s teams. No other White Sox had similar accommodations, but there have been no reports of any teammates asking for such access for their sons.

But it is well within the team’s rights to set rules regarding access to space usually reserved for players. Though Drake was apparently well-versed in when and where to be, the presence of youth in the clubhouse could affect players’ preparation and force them to watch their language and other behavior.

Among the national columnists to side with the team is USA Today’s Bob Nightengale.

(USA Today)

The Ability to Walk Away  

LaRoche was in the second year of a $25 million contract with the White Sox. He has made more than $71 million in his major league career and has outside interests that include co-ownership of the Outdoor Channel’s “Buck Commander,” a show that has featured the hunting exploits of LaRoche, other baseball players and country music singers. 

Without a contractual clause regarding Drake LaRoche, the White Sox had the right to request a limiting of the 14-year-old’s clubhouse access. At the same time, Adam LaRoche had the means and the focus on family to call it a career.

Lacy Lusk is e-newsletter editor for SHRM.​

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