My Take On Adam LaRoche’s Dad-Centric Retirement

The Adam LaRoche versus the Chicago White Sox saga has me conflicted.  I agree that the owner of the team should make the rules.  Managing by exception is not a good way to run a high performing team in any context.

All that said, I’m frustrated that there is an assumption that being a great athlete or employee requires a fatherhood “on/off” switch.  If life is in balance, no one should be choosing to be a great employee (or teammate) at the cost of being a great dad.

There are several questions and comments I’ve heard that trouble me in regard to the LaRoche situation:

“Allowing LaRoche’s son at work would set a precedent that would be detrimental to the team.”

In the context of setting rules that everyone must follow, this comment makes logical sense.  I would, however, test that logic by asking how many fathers would really want their child to come with them to work every day.  Would you?

I’ll be the first to say that I am a better dad by virtue of having to maximize the time I do have with my kids.  If I were around them 100% of the day, our time together would be less special.  My time away at work likely makes me a better dad.

I wouldn’t fault anyone for needing more time with their kids.  Before talking about a precedent being set, I might ask that we examine the universal likelihood of the behavior the new rule is trying to prevent.

Adding the word “detrimental” to the comment makes me cringe.  I have an issue with connecting the act of being an active, hands-on dad with being distracted from the work LaRoche’s is being “paid to do.”

The truth is that becoming a father changes a person holistically – at home and at work.  If a company or, in the case of LaRoche, a professional baseball team does not acknowledge that fact, they are hurting their ability to retain top talent.

Even though it is certainly within their right to do so, those organizations (or ball teams) that enforce rigidity will be left behind with the next generation of worker (or ball player).

Millennials are not the “live-to-work” bunch that are current C.E.O.’s or team owners.  The next generation of worker demands greater flexibility and true work-life balance that is individually defined– an idea that LaRoche seems to have taken to an extreme.

“He is crazy for walking from $13 million!” 

The amount of money LaRoche has given up in retirement is unfathomable to me.  I both applaud and shutter at his principle-centered ability to turn his back on such additional riches.  I find this decision both courageous and questionable.

I refuse to call him an idiot for doing so and I hope you wouldn’t either.  The ridiculous wealth of pro athletes comes at a cost to the player’s family.  Don’t get me wrong – each player knows what they are signing up for and are handsomely rewarded for doing so.

Everyone has their own “number” – the point where going through the daily grind at the cost of your family is just not worth it any longer.

LaRoche’s retirement tells me that he felt that his $13 million salary no longer compensated him for the time he would lose with his son.  That is a huge number and would take courage to leave behind.

An equally daunting number is “0” – the times he would otherwise have been able to see his son play a little league game this summer or the number of weekend days off LaRoche would have in the next eight months.

I agree these professional athletes live a life that I have dreamed about – I don’t cry for them.  Only considering their inflated salaries, though, doesn’t acknowledge the sacrifice of the families they’re leaving behind to chase the next contract.

“What is LaRoche teaching his son by quitting when he didn’t get his way?”

If LaRoche’s son had spent as much time around spring training as has been reported, I’m sure he would be distraught about his dad’s sudden retirement.  After the initial hurt subsides, LaRoche’s son will have received the best gift of all – his father back full-time.

No matter how much Adam LaRoche might miss being around the “guys in the locker room”, that would pale in comparison to the joy of seeing his son every day.

Whether you agree or disagree with my thoughts, the dismissive questions and comments about LaRoche’s decision should stop – they perpetuate the belief that fatherhood can wait as long as the price is right.

The fact is, the concept of being an active dad is different for everyone.  As a result, setting up rigid rules to govern acceptable times and circumstances for parenting are as short-sided as they are justifiable.


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