Adam LaRoche said he decided to resign from the Chicago White Sox about 20 minutes after “a short, heated conversation” in which he was told he could no longer bring his 14-year-old son to the team clubhouse, telling ABC News in an exclusive interview that he didn’t hold any grudges and wouldn’t rule out returning to baseball.
The first baseman had played 12 seasons for seven different teams and his son, Drake, has been with him practically all the time. Drake even had a locker right next to his dad's in the White Sox's clubhouse.
"I haven't lost an ounce of sleep," LaRoche said of his decision. "I mean, I have zero regrets."
LaRoche, 36, acknowledged that exceptions had probably been made to allow Drake’s presence and that he knew it could come to an end at any time. Nevertheless, he said he was “mad at the time” when Ken Williams, the team’s vice president, made the decision.
“I don't hold a grudge. I don't hate anybody over there. You know, it just made my decision easy,” LaRoche, alongside his son, told ABC News’ T.J. Holmes, adding, “Honestly, it's not the end of the world to me. And I thank my parents for that. The way I was raised. Because baseball -- and I've said it before, I don't want to be defined by this game. I know there's a lot more to life.”
Williams had previously addressed Drake’s presence with LaRoche, the player said, adding that he assumed Williams was referring to his son’s presence during the regular season, so he kept bringing Drake with him for spring training. In his next conversation with Williams, LaRoche said the team’s vice president told him, “’Enough’s enough.’”
LaRoche acknowledged that he had been playing poorly, and said he understood if Williams had wanted his full focus to be on the game. “He may have thought [Drake’s presence] was a distraction. It's absolutely reasonable. That's why I say I really can't, you know, looking back now, I can't blame him,” he said.
At the time, though, LaRoche took exception to Williams’ directive, saying, “All I could hear was ... ‘I don't want your son around.’"
Drake, 14, said he felt it was “normal” to be at the ballpark with his father every day. While his father trained, Drake would clean the other players’ cleats and run other errands, including washing cars and retrieving items from players’ lockers.
“I vacuumed sometimes,” Drake said, adding that he misses his father’s former teammates, whom he viewed as his own friends. “They’re awesome.”
LaRoche's exit from the team meant he gave up the $13 million left on his contract for this season. LaRoche has already earned an estimated $70 million in his career, according to ESPN.
In an interview with Fox Sports after LaRoche’s resignation, Williams said he asked the player to "dial it back" when it came to bringing Drake to White Sox practices and the team's clubhouse.
"All I'm asking you to do with regard to bringing your kid to the ballpark is dial it back," Williams said he told LaRoche. "I don't think he should be here 100 percent of the time - and he has been here 100 percent, every day, in the clubhouse."
LaRoche said his teammates have been supportive of his decision, adding that some of them were closer to Drake than they were to him.
Being available for Drake during his formative years was essential, LaRoche said.
“Our kids are going to follow in our footsteps, good or bad. And you know, we got a small window here, a very small window here, to turn them into the men that they're going to be. And I don't want to miss six months of that window, even for $13 million.”
LaRoche said he didn’t tell Drake that he was at the center of his retirement decision. He simply told him there had been “’a change in policy. They're cracking down on kids coming -- not just you.’”
LaRoche and his family -- Drake, daughter Montana and wife Jennifer – are now on a road trip across the country.
“This has been nice -- just the four of us, cooped up in an R.V. We're going to find how much we love each other, or hate each other; one way or the other. So we're having a blast,” he said.
After they’re done, they’ll return to their ranch in Kansas and see what happens next.
"One of the things I probably thought the longest on was making sure that, if I did this, that he would never feel like this was on his shoulders," LaRoche said of Drake. "I think he knows, deep down, that baseball was never, like, my life or my world or everything to me."
In addition to devoting time to his community and his businesses, LaRoche also plans to continue his work fighting child trafficking in Asia. He spent 10 days undercover in the red light districts of southeast Asia, working with a non-profit organization to help victims of sex trafficking.
"I think having my own kid, having two kids of my own, especially a 12-year-old daughter, it's impossible not to picture, you know, 'What if this was my daughter?,'" LaRoche said.
When asked whether baseball was not as important to him after the trip, LaRoche replied, "It wasn't at all."
LaRoche, a devout Christian, stands by his decision to resign, saying he believes his action was directed by “our creator.”
Asked about a possible return to baseball, LaRoche replied: “I'm going to leave that up to the Lord. And if, for some reason, he wants me to go play again, then I won't be able to turn that down.”