Chicago White Sox designated hitter, Adam LaRoche retired from baseball last week with $13 million remaining on his 2-year, $25 million contract (Kane, 2016). That’s not something we hear often, a professional athlete walking away from the sport they love, and a huge paycheck. However, this case involves the human aspect of sports and the value of family.
Adam LaRoche, was preparing to play what could be the last season of his career when he was told by White Sox Executive Vice President, Ken Williams that he should limit the amount of time that his 14-year old son Drake spends in the clubhouse with the rest of the team. LaRoche viewed Williams’ request not as an order from his boss but a choice whether to choose his career and teammates or his family. Considering his commitment to family from a young age, his part in his family owned meat business, and love his son, his choice was not surprising (Kilgore, 2016).
This story struck me as interesting for two reasons. The amount of media coverage this story was receiving was astounding, reaching all the way to the Fox News Channel. Deadspin, ESPN, and Fortune Magazine also featured LaRoche’s story. But also, it was a breaking news story involving an athlete doing the right thing. All too often, we hear of an athlete beating his girlfriend, getting arrested on gun charges, or using performance enhancing drugs. But this story was different. After being told to stop bringing his family by so often, LaRoche chose family over his job, which is admirable. Whether or not you agree with his choice of retirement, his decision showed his commitment to play the game for the right reasons.
A number of MLB players including Bryce harper took to twitter to express support for the LaRoches, both big and little:
I happen to agree with LaRoche’s decision, and I was implored to learn more about the position of the White Sox Vice President. In a statement, Williams described his view regarding Drake LaRoche saying, “I don’t think he should be here 100 percent of the time – and he has been here 100 percent, every day, in the clubhouse… (Allen, 2016)” I understand that even a baseball clubhouse is a professional working environment and that everyone should carry themselves in a professional matter. But even LaRoche said that no one expressed discomfort over his son being in the clubhouse. This controversy does not bode well for the White Sox. Specifically, Ken Williams is being viewed as not appreciating the family aspect of the game, which in one of America’s most storied sports cities, is not something you want to be known as.
For LaRoche, baseball is more than a career. Adam and his brother, Andy had been involved in the career of their Father Dave who was an accomplished pitcher in the MLB and went on to coach the White Sox when Adam was 4. Baseball is in their blood and it’s more than a job. It’s a family affair and something LaRoche is excited to share with his son while he still can. LaRoche released a statement after his sudden retirement had attracted so much attention and in it he said, “of one thing I am certain: we will regret NOT spending enough time with our kids, not the other way around. (@e3laroche)”
Why this particular story got so much attention in just a couple days is not all that surprising, however. This story struck the heartstrings of those who grew up around a sport with their parent, or those who have kids of their own and want to teach them life lessons through sports. LaRoche’s story urges us to look at our own situations and reminds us to always stick up for what we believe is most important in this life. A study from Marquette University looked at different types of sports stories and how they are portrayed in the media.
“Practitioners may be able to use human interest stories to influence key target publics. Intuitively, it seems possible that human interest stories will generate more word-of-mouth discussion and, in the new media environment, are more likely to be forwarded to other people or posted on a social networking site such as Facebook. (Issacson, p. 606)”
Faced with a decision that tested his values, Adam LaRoche took the admiral road and whether he returns to the diamond soon or sticks with his heart and pursues other interests with his son by his side, it’s safe to say he is one of the good guys in the world of sports.
Allen, Scott. (2016) The reason ex-Nat Adam LaRoche is retiring? His son isn’t as welcome in Sox clubhouse. The Washington Post. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/dc-sports-bog/wp/2016/03/16/the-reason-ex-nat-adam-laroche-is-retiring-his-son-isnt-as-welcome-in-sox-clubhouse/?tid=a_inl
Issacson, Tom. (2010) Sports Public Relations. Marquette University. Retrieved from http://epublications.marquette.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1080&context=comm_fac
Kane, Colleen. (2016) Adam LaRoche stuns White Sox with decision to quit playing. Chicago Tribune. Retrieved from http://www.chicagotribune.com/sports/baseball/whitesox/ct-adam-laroche-step-away-20160315-story.html
Kilgore, Adam. (2016) For Adam LaRoche, the decision to walk away from baseball was an easy one. The Washington Post. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/sports/wp/2016/03/17/for-adam-laroche-the-decision-to-walk-away-from-baseball-was-an-easy-one/
@Bharper3407. (2016, March 16). Good for you Roche! Nothing like father and son in the clubhouse..It’s a FAMILY game #FamilyFirst [Twitter post]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/Bharper3407/status/710186474663235584
@e3laroche. (2016, March 18). Given the suddenness of my departure… [Twitter post]. Retrieved from http://www.twitlonger.com/show/n_1sof75p
@RealCJ10. (2016, March 16). Big ups to my boy
@e3laroche for standing up for his beliefs. We play a GAME! Good for u brother. #FamilyFirst. [Twitter post]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/RealCJ10/status/710244156925419522