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The unwritten rules of bringing your kid into a baseball clubhouse

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Adam LaRoche retired because his kid couldn't hang out in the clubhouse. That seems like a big deal, and we should explore it.

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

There are January nights when I lay awake in bed, with nothing but the low moan of the wind and a creaking side gate to keep me company. I'm terrified that there will be no more unwritten rules to write about. Don't bunt to break up a no-hitter. Don't watch a home run for too long. Don't steal a base with a big lead. We've done this all, you fool. Don't you see? There's nothing left. These rules are very much written down.

And yet last spring, I wrote about the unwritten rules of a clubhouse sandwich. This spring, I'm going to write about the unwritten rules of a clubhouse teenager. There will always be unwritten rules, cascading down from the sky, daring you to record them with ink and quill. Go to sleep, January me. Go to sleep.

In this episode, we have the case of the 14-year-old son and his baseball-playing dad. If you're behind, catch up. We'll have to set some ground rules, first:

  1. You don't get to judge Adam LaRoche for deciding his son is better off traveling with him than in a classroom setting. No, it's not the choice I'd make either, but I would hate a lot of the suggestions you'd have for my daughters, too.

  2. No, that's pretty much it. There are a hundred scenarios in which a 14-year-old's quality of life would be improved through constant interaction with his dad. Even if you can think of a thousand scenarios where a stable school setting would improve the quality of life more, you have to plead ignorance on this specific case, this individual child.

There's no sense finding a common workplace analogy to the baseball clubhouse. It doesn't exist. You probably haven't played baseball past high school, and you've almost certainly never been a grown man with grownup concerns in a baseball clubhouse. More importantly, your work day isn't like this:

  • 8-10:30 a.m.: Arrive to work, screw around with co-workers, get dressed.

  • 10:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.: Do rote, mechanical things that you do brainlessly every day. For practice.

  • 12:30-2 p.m.: Snacks! Maybe watch video of yourself doing your job, so you can do it better later.

  • 2-5:30 p.m.: Do what you're paid to do, but this time in front of thousands of drunk people who care waaaaay too much about what you do.

  • 5:30-8 p.m.: Shower. Answer questions about your stupid job. Go home or back to the hotel.

In that situation, I don't know, maybe having your kid around makes sense? It doesn't seem like the most ridiculous concept in the world, especially if we're talking about a mostly autonomous teenager, someone who can figure out what to do when you're not around. There's only so much time where you're not around, and that time happens to be spent doing something that's probably interesting for the kid to watch.

There is a constant, though. In any workplace, in any job, from the beginning of human civilization to the explosion of the sun, there will be someone who doesn't want another person's kid around them while they work. Remember, we're not talking about a drop-in visit during the lunch hour. We're talking every day. Every day. For hours and hours and hours.

That's just your opinion, person who spent a lot of time in a clubhouse as both a child and an adult, but ... well ... okay, that's a valid opinion, sorry. I've been a dishwasher and a salesman, a receptionist and a property manager, a paperboy and a department store clerk, a ballpark vendor and a writer. And there hasn't been a single second at any one of those jobs where I thought, "This is great, but ... man, if I could just have someone else's kid right there whenever I turned around. Then I'd be living the high life."

And have you been around a teenager lately? What are those things? I have a mix tape from high school with Firehouse and fiREHOSE on it. That's just a sliver of the internal turmoil that was going on. Teenage boys are sentient, malevolent fart machines. You don't want one of those hanging around you while you're coding/plumbing/preparing for a game.

It's almost guaranteed that a player on the White Sox said as much. Maybe a couple. Maybe several. And how awkward it must have been for Chris Sale, the team's best player, to stand up and excoriate Kenny Williams with those players looking on sheepishly. Or, if not sheepishly, completely perplexed, wondering if the kid wasn't too shy to ask them his thoughts on Minecraft, every day, for weeks, over a long season, but far too shy to ask the spindly master of the dark slider arts, Chris Sale.

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Or maybe LaRoche's son was quick with a delightfully poignant political quip at just the right time, while mostly reading books in the corner by himself. We don't know! If there's any decency in this world, we'll never know, and that's just fine with me.

No, our job is to determine just how many irritated co-workers it takes to put LaRoche in the wrong in this situation. One? Two? A majority? And don't forget that baseball is a fantasyland of millionaires and egos, where normal rules don't apply.

I reject this job. It's not for me. It's not for you. Someone is asking us a trigonometry question using hand gestures, and we should slowly back away.

The real issue here is that someone, someones, didn't codify this at the very beginning. There was a time when Adam LaRoche was hanging around clubhouses. Maybe when his dad was the pitching coach for the White Sox. Maybe at the same time Robin Ventura was a young player, wondering why that little LaRoche was scampering about. Maybe there was a team in the 40s, 30s, or 10s that had a similar situation and let it slide. Since then, we've had kids in and out of clubhouses, kids almost getting nullified during the World Series, but no set rule about kids in the clubhouse.

That's what makes it awkward. Because I can see LaRoche's side. His kid is there. No big deal. Everyone seems cool with it. He's a sweet kid. For a teenager. Who could have a problem with this?

But I can also see Anonymous Player's side. Sometimes you just want to listen to Mr. Bungle or scream "Man, fuck that episode of Spin City. That storyline is not canon in my book" At least, as far as workplace mores allow.

And that's the thing about baseball clubhouses. We don't know those mores. They probably haven't figured it out just yet. That's why there are unwritten rules in the first place.

All it takes is one teammate to raise an objection, and you see his side.

All it takes is Adam LaRoche pleading his case, describing what this means to him, and you see his side.

I don't have an answer. But it probably should have been resolved before this LaRoche, if not before the older LaRoche, if not before the LaRoche before that. Because it wasn't resolved back then, we have a big ol' messy mess.

No one is right. No one is wrong. Your opinions on parenting and baseball clubhouses are stupid. So are mine. Leave me alone.

To walk away from a $13 million paycheck for your kid, though? I'll respect that. And in this episode of Unwritten Rules, life is complicated and nothing is resolved. Thank you for tuning in.