Friday, March 18, 2016

By David Saltzer, Senior Writer - 

Around, it’s become a guaranteed response to any salary question: “No one would walk away from the money.” Looking through any of the hundreds of threads discussing the possibility of an aging and struggling player retiring somewhere within it will be such a glib response.

I have been one to say unequivocally that under specific conditions that I could and would walk away from the money. However, I rarely post in threads where that might pop up because I’m sure most people wouldn’t believe me. And I don’t want to have the discussion devolve into a yes I would/no you wouldn’t debate.

There are plenty of people who believe that no matter what, no one would ever willingly walk away from guaranteed money.

Except it just happened. 

And, it wasn’t just chicken scratch—we’re talking about $13 million in guaranteed money all because he was told to “dial down” the amount of time his sons spent in the clubhouse. Adam LaRoche just proved that there are things more important to some people than money.

Since Adam LaRoche announced his retirement, I’ve seen strong arguments made against LaRoche. Many have agreed with White Sox President Ken Williams who said  “You tell me, where in this country can you bring your child to work everyday?” They have a point, to a certain extent. If LaRoche owned his own business, he could have his son at his work every day. My dad had his own business, and any time I wanted to go there was more than welcome. So, there are some places where that would be possible. Not many, but some.

Baseball players aren’t like other employees. Other employees go home at the end of the day and see their families. They can play catch with their sons and daughters. They can read them stories at night. They can tell them that they love them every day throughout the year.

Baseball players are on the road 8 months out of the year—and even longer if they make the post season. They are missing out on their biggest jobs in life—being fathers—for the majority of the year. One never gets a “do-over” at parenthood. The consequences for failing at parenthood are substantial. As a high-school teacher, I’ve seen the results of far too many who have failed at it. And, I can tell you, the failures can be even more monstrous when the children are raised with the kind money that professional athletes have.

When are baseball players supposed to connect with their children during the season? When their children are waking up to get ready for school, a baseball player is most likely still asleep trying to recover from the previous night’s game. When their children are coming home from school, the baseball players are already working out, hitting in the cages and getting ready for that night’s game. When they are done playing for the day, their kids should be long asleep, as games end too late. Sure, the children can see their fathers on TV, but that is not the same thing as having a real parental relationship. A baseball player’s schedule doesn’t even work out well for phone calls with their children during the season.

So, I get why Adam LaRoche wanted to have his son around the clubhouse as much as possible. If that helped him feel connected to his son, and, helped him be a better father, I get it. If the team didn’t want his son around, they should have had a policy in place before he signed a contract with them explicitly stating their desires. Maybe, and probably likely, he would have signed with a different team that would have allowed him to do so. I can understand teams placing reasonable limits on who can be in the clubhouse once batting practice starts. Heck, they kick reporters out at that time, But, to essentially prevent a father from seeing his son for 8 months out of the year is ridiculous, especially if they didn't notify him of that before he signed with the team.

In many ways, baseball players like LaRoche are lucky. If they’ve played long enough in the Major Leagues, they most likely have made more than enough so that they can afford to walk away from the game over specific issues. That’s a luxury very few of us can afford and a freedom even fewer of us have.

Deep down, I think that those who say they’d never walk away from the money are a bit jealous of those who can afford to do so, or those who willingly did do so. I know far too many people who feel “trapped” in their jobs and believe that they have to keep doing what they are doing because they have to support their family in the lifestyle that they want. They keep grinding on, resenting those who choose otherwise.

Personally, I walked away from a career that would have paid me 3 times what I make as a teacher because it would have meant that I would have insane hours away from my family. Being a father meant more to me, even if it meant less money for my family.

So thank you Adam LaRoche for showing everyone that there are others out there who are willing to do the same—even when the money involved is more substantial. There are things in life that are more important than money. The next time someone posts that “no one would ever walk away from the money,” I will remind them that you had the guts and the strength of character to do so.

Enjoy your retirement.
Love to hear what you think!

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