From Adam LaRoche, a lesson on balance

By Jahan Mirchandani | March 24, 2016



For many Americans, “take your child to work day” is an annual occurrence where children accompany their parents to their job. Typically the glamour of this annual day wears off once these children become teenagers, and teachers do not want their students missing an entire day’s worth of classes. The thought of having children roaming the workplace several times a month seems unimaginable, given that it would distract not only their parents, but co-workers as well.

There are some exceptions to these norms however, since professional athletes frequently have their children attend their games and then stick around after in the locker room. These professional athletes are consistently on the road traveling and therefore take advantage of any valuable time available to spend with their children. What happens, however, when an employer decides to mandate that a specific employee cannot have their child around the workplace anymore? Does that mean the employee must now decide which is more important, their job or their child?

This dilemma resembles daily decisions that college students make: What would you prefer to do versus what you should do. Study for that midterm on Monday or take some time to enjoy the weekend? In both cases, there typically is a balance that can be reached, which does not involve an ultimatum of choosing one over the other.

Last week, professional athlete Adam LaRoche announced that he was retiring from Major League Baseball. Under contract to earn $13 million this year alone, the unexpected announcement opened eyes nationwide. After all, it was not as if the 34-year-old LaRoche were too old to continue playing. Fans anxiously anticipated a follow-up story revealing his reasoning for giving up such an exorbitant amount of money. Rumors started spreading that LaRoche was at odds with management over work policy, something that resonates with employees globally, but does not necessarily justify quitting abruptly. Ultimately LaRoche announced his rationale: He was resigning because the Vice President of the Chicago White Sox organization (his employer/team) told him that his son was not permitted in the clubhouse during the upcoming season. LaRoche chose his family, his responsibilities as a father and his personal life over his work life, a decision that was publicly commended and met with admiration and respect by many (along with a trending hashtag #FamilyFirst on Twitter).

This announcement also sparked outrage toward the Chicago White Sox leadership, with some of LaRoche’s old teammates publicizing their disapproval of such a directive. What made matters worse was that this rule applied only to LaRoche’s son, Drake, and not to the children of any other member of the team. A consequential spotlight was suddenly placed on the Chicago White Sox organization, with their explanation potentially having the significance to set a precedent among professional sports nationwide. As is true to every story, details from the other side eventually emerged. Suddenly White Sox Vice President Kenny Williams did not come off as the total jerk that many portrayed him as. This situation became messy and extremely controversial.

In justifying the organization’s decision, Williams stated that several of LaRoche’s co-workers/teammates found Drake to be a distraction because he was around so often. When asked how often, it surfaced that LaRoche’s son was in the workplace a whopping 120 days of the year. Given the fact that Drake is 14 years old, concerns regarding his commitment to school, desire to make friends his own age and general uncomfortableness being around grown men being paid to entertain became relevant.

With both sides to the story out, it became understandable to see why the White Sox approached LaRoche to confront him about this unhealthy situation. Having a balance between your personal life and work is one thing, but here it appears that LaRoche abused his contractual rights and now is making other athletes (and common Americans) look bad for not putting #FamilyFirst. After all, can you imagine if every single player brought his teenage son to work 140 times a year? That’s not a balance. Instead it’s similar to spending the entire weekend in the Inner Harbor, Federal Hill and Hampden and then performing below average on that test on Monday (similar to LaRoche performing below Major League average last year with his .207 batting average).

On Twitter, LaRoche wrote that he was forced to make a decision: “Do I choose my teammates and my career? Or do I choose my family?” It appears that LaRoche was fortunate to enjoy the ultimate balance of having both his family and his career for the past few years. Accustomed to being allowed to have his son join him at work so often, all LaRoche would have had to do was tilt the balance more toward his career by requesting that Drake still be welcome in the locker room, albeit at a scaled back frequency. Instead, LaRoche chose against compromising and balancing, choosing to walk away from the game he loves for the family he loves, a decision that sparked an opinion among other athletes, common American workers and college students alike.

With midterms upon us, it is essential for our own mental and physical health to have a balance between work and life. This “balance” includes finding time to study and get your work done while also finding leisure time in the gym, dining halls, fraternity houses or downtown. While I may not agree with LaRoche’s decision, the circumstances surrounding it do raise the importance of compromising between what we enjoy and what we must do to fulfill commitments and succeed. Students at Hopkins (and other institutions) often can feel moments of being overwhelmed or stressed. Our desire and determination to do well inside the classroom, become involved in student organizations, hold leadership positions, intern/do research, perform community service and impress our peers absolutely take a toll on our physical and mental health. We can learn from LaRoche and remind ourselves that performing under pressure is not worth performing without the things you love.

Jahan Mirchandani is the Coordinator for Union Programming in the Office of Student Leadership and Involvement.

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