PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla.
You’ve probably seen a hundred interviews during which a ballplayer chats about his faith and family and sport, and talks about them in that order. Maybe you thought it was a cliche; maybe you thought that is how it should be.
But when Adam LaRoche, whose father, Dave, was the Las Vegas 51s pitching coach for a couple of seasons, was told by Chicago White Sox executive vice president Ken Williams that he couldn’t bring his 14-year-old son to the office any longer, LaRoche said “I quit.”
By now you’ve read the story: Forced to choose between bringing his son into the clubhouse — Drake LaRoche was revered by the other ballplayers, and more mature than most of ‘em, White Sox manager Robin Ventura said — dad chose his family over his baseball. He announced his retirement, forfeiting a $13 million contract.
“In life, we’re all faced with difficult decisions and will have a choice to make,” LaRoche explained on Twitter Friday. “Do we act based on the consequences, or do we act on what we know and believe in our hearts to be right? I chose the latter.”
It’s caused a bigger furor around the basepaths than when umpire Jim Joyce called the Indians’ Jason Donald safe at first base, spoiling the perfect game of Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga.
A lot of baseball people have rallied to Adam LaRoche’s defense, including many White Sox players and players from other teams.
Wrote Las Vegas slugger Bryce Harper (who was teammates with LaRoche on the Washington Nationals) on his Twitter account: “Good for you Roche! Nothing like father and son in the clubhouse … It’s a FAMILY game. #FamilyFirst.
Wally Backman, who is returning for his fourth season as 51s manager but is not much of a Twitter advocate or a hashtag guy, was asked about the situation at New York Mets spring training. Backman was a no-nonsense kind of player, and if anybody might have an issue with bringing a youngster into the workplace, you figure it might be a guy like Backman.
But you would have figured wrong.
“From what I’ve read, it was OK for him to have his son there at the ballpark,” the Las Vegas skipper said, adding his name to those on Adam LaRoche’s side of the scorecard.
“I don’t think having a kid in the clubhouse like that will disrupt the daily things that gone on, especially if what I’ve read is true — where (LaRoche) was told he could do that.”
“He’s a class act; he’s a family guy,” Backman said. “Baseball’s an important thing when the season gets going but your family does come first.”
When reporters were allowed into the Mets clubhouse to chat with players Friday, children weren’t present.
Yoenis Cespedes was signing a stack of pinstriped New York jerseys with his name and number on back; on the other side of the room, relief pitcher Zack Thornton was griping about his high jersey number — 80 — as he kibitzed with visitors from Las Vegas and recommended a great place for seafood on the Florida waterfront.
(Thornton knows his stuff: The blackened swordfish at the Dolphin Bar &Shrimp House in Jensen Beach was succulent.)
A couple of women reporters were in the clubhouse as a couple of Mets were coming out of the showers minus sliding shorts. But one didn’t see any youngsters.
Beat the (baseball) clock
Remember those giant Flavor Flav-style pitch clocks that were installed at Cashman Field and other minor league ballparks to speed up games?
Maybe they were a distraction — but they worked.
The average Pacific Coast League ballgame lasted 2 hours, 45 minutes in 2015, down from 2:58 in 2014.
One violation was called for every seven games played, which doesn’t seem like a whole lot.
“Umpires don’t like (the clocks) because it’s one more thing they have to deal with,” 51s president Don Logan said. “But enough of them call it, so the players have to pick up the pace.”
Another theory is that PCL pitching was better in 2015, so that’s why games were quicker.
But most people still think it was the big clocks.
Put on her Dancing shoes
Former Durango High basketball standout Lindy La Rocque went to four consecutive NCAA women’s basketball Final Fours as a player at Stanford, and then two more as a graduate assistant at Oklahoma. This season, she started her full-time coaching career by landing a spot on the Belmont University bench.
Lo and behold, La Rocque punched her Big Dance card for the seventh straight year — the Bruins won the Ohio Valley Conference tournament but lost to Michigan State in a women’s first-round game.
Watching Ivy grow
The first name that popped into mind when Yale upset Baylor in the first round of March Madness was that of Gabe Hunterton, a Las Vegas kid from Bishop Gorman who was the captain of the Bulldogs basketball team during the late 1990s.
Gabe Hunterton, whose brother, Nate, was a former co-captain of the Army football team — these Hunterton lads must exhibit a lot of leadership qualities — is now CEO of ITeam, a Las Vegas-based fantasy sports operation.
This really happened
Three guys from Las Vegas walk into an Irish bar on St. Patrick’s Day near the New York Mets’ spring training digs in Port St. Lucie. A barmaid asks what’ll they have.
The first guy, a baseball manager, says Dewar’s on the rocks. A man’s drink. Billy Martin stuff.
The second guy says Michelob Ultra. That’s a watered down light beer. Not really a man’s drink, though.
The third guy says O’Doul’s. The third guy has been forsaking adult beverages for Lent and he was eight days from the finish line.
The first guy, the baseball manager, raises a quizzical eyebrow and asks with the straightest of faces “What’s an O’Doul’s?”
Billy Martin, who also was a devout Catholic, would have loved this. But he never would have ordered an O’Doul’s.
Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ron Kantowski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0352. Follow him on Twitter: @ronkantowski.