Baseball. It was what Adam LaRoche was made for. Over the course of 12 years Adam played for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Boston Red Sox, Atlanta Braves, Arizona Diamondbacks, Washington Nationals, and Chicago White Sox. 255 home runs, a Gold Glove, Silver Slugger Award, and National League Wilson Defensive Player of the Year. Son of a former Major Leaguer and icon of the game, LaRoche was living his dream. Or was he?
Try to find most any article about Adam LaRoche and here is a snapshot of what you’ll find. Adam Laroche was known for bringing his son, Drake, with him to the ball field on almost any given day. A devout Christian and family man his philosophy on parenting was somewhat of, “If it’s gonna happen, it might as well happen with me around.” Letting your 14 year-old son hang out in Major League locker rooms was not only controversial outside the clubhouse, but inside as well. 6 months prior to fulfilling his contract with Chicago, Adam was informed of another player’s complaint concerning his son’s presence. Ultimately, LaRoche walked away from the Chicago White Sox and…$13Million.
Call it insanity. Call it selfish. Call it a temper tantrum. Before departing, Adam left his team with this message.
“I am choosing my son over you guys. I cannot tell you how much I hate that I’m even having to make this decision, and how much it crushes me to feel like I could be leaving you guys hanging.”
It’s easy for us to read these words and make assumptions about the quote. We assume LaRoche was more concerned about time with his son, upset he was forced to make decision, upset with the lack of support from the White Sox organization, or simply looking for a way out of baseball. But if we look at his words, “I am choosing my son…it crushes me to feel like I could be leaving you guys hanging “, the anatomy of a leader begins to show. In that moment Adam was forced to send not only one but two messages. First, a public choice to preserve his contract and maintain his way of life at the expense of Father-Son Time. The second and most important, a private message to his son sent not in words but in deed. An action that said, “You are more valuable.” The lifetime message of a father who chose to live without regrets. A father who understood that life is about more. A father who decided to live as part of A Larger Story. Don’t believe me? Do you know where Adam was last November?
This was reported by ESPN’s Tim Keown:
LaRoche, along with Brewers pitcher Blaine Boyer, spent 10 days in November in Southeast Asian brothels, wearing a hidden camera and doing undercover work to help rescue underage sex slaves. All of which raises a question: After 12 years in the big leagues, the endless days and nights in dugouts and clubhouses, how did LaRoche’s nearly cinematic level of nonconformity escape detection?
… Working through a nonprofit called the Exodus Road, LaRoche and Boyer conducted surveillance in brothels and tried to determine the age of the girls — known only by numbers pinned to bikinis — and identify their bosses.
“Something huge happened there for us,” Boyer says. “You can’t explain it. Can’t put your finger on it. If you make a wrong move, you’re getting tossed off a building. We were in deep, man, but that’s the way it needed to be done. Adam and I truly believe God brought us there and said, ‘This is what I have for you boys.”
Was that insane? Maybe. Was it selfish? Selfless would be an understatement. Then what does it say about the Anatomy of a Leader? He understands that his actions speak volumes more than the loudest words and his legacy is not defined by his career. If you can understand the passion of a man living for something bigger than himself, then you can understand true leadership.