For White Sox DH Adam LaRoche, #FamilyFirst is More Than a Hashtag
If this keeps up, I might just become a professional sports fanatic. Or at least a solid fan.
That would shock the daylights out of my family and friends, since I’ve never given a hoot about pro sports – any pro sport, mind you.
That’s changing, but not for the reasons you may think. It’s not the sports themselves that are catching my interest, it’s the men who play in them. More precisely, it’s the men who are walking away from them and the reason they’re walking away.
Last week, I wrote about Green Bay Packer DT B.J. Raji stepping down from professional football for the 2016 season. In a stunning announcement, he cited the health concerns of his mother and aunt, saying that his family needs him. So, in spite of being in his prime and on the cusp of an impressive new contract, he’s doing what he knows is right – taking care of his family first.
On the same day my post about Raji ran, White Sox designated hitter, Adam LaRoche made a stunning announcement of his own.
Less than three weeks before the White Sox play their 2016 Opening Day Game against the Oakland Atheltics, LaRoche is stepping down from baseball. His coaches and teammates asked him to reconsider his decision, and he did. But, he came up with the same answer.
LaRoche is retiring from baseball for the sake of his 14-year-old son, Drake, who has been constant companion to LaRoche for the past six years. He was considered the White Sox’s “26th man” and even had his own locker in the team’s locker room last year.
Prior to signing with the White Sox, LaRoche had made an agreement with team management that Drake would be able to join him during training and the playing season. The arrangement seemed to be working very well. But recently, White Sox VP Ken Williams advised LaRoche to significantly scale back the time Drake spent in the clubhouse. Not long after, he was told not to bring the boy to the ballpark at all.
LaRoche was in the middle of a two-year, $25 million contract. He could have taken Drake aside, explained the situation with him, and gone on playing the game to which he’d devoted the past 12 years of his life.
He didn’t. Instead, he chose to retire.
In a March 16, 2016 TwitLonger post, LaRoche explained his decision:
“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.”
Whether it’s for an ailing mother and aunt, or a young son who needs his dad, it touches my heart to see professional athletes who can be real men more so off the field than on. It can’t be easy to give up so much for what some people might consider so little.
For sure, God has given each of us a singular set of gifts and a specific mission for which to use them. But he also has given us each a specific family, a particular role to play in that family and only one chance to get it right.
#FamilyFirst is more than a hashtag. It’s a call to action.
And, for men like B.J. Raji and Adam LaRoche, it’s a way of life.