Forgive Adam LaRoche if he doesn't remember his first time inside a Major League clubhouse.
It was sometime in the early 1980s at the old Yankee Stadium. He was no more than 3 or 4 years old, probably with his older brother, Jeff, and definitely with his father, Dave. The eldest LaRoche pitched in the Bronx from 1981-83, the tail end of a 14-year big league career, and sometimes his two young kids showed up with him, as young baseball kids sometimes do.
Forgive Adam LaRoche, too, if this week is his last time inside a Major League clubhouse.
Now 36 and with a family of his own, the designated hitter/first baseman abruptly announced his retirement Tuesday. A day later, White Sox executive vice president Ken Williams acknowledged that LaRoche's exit stemmed from a request by the team that LaRoche's 14-year-old son, Drake, not be around so often, as he was last season when he had his own locker and went on road trips.
Williams noted that Drake was not a distraction and "everyone loves him," but "where we are right now, that 100 percent was a little much. So I asked him to dial it back."
LaRoche didn't like it and left.
"Drake's been coming to the ballpark with [Adam] almost his whole career, and he's been fine. He knows how to behave," Dave LaRoche said via phone from Mexico, where he spends his winters. "He would've never signed with the White Sox had they not agreed that it was fine for Drake to be there. Someone either wasn't truthful or changed the rules."
In a vacuum, LaRoche's call -- at a cost of giving up his $13 million salary -- might seem stubborn or overly principled. To understand his decision, though, you need to understand his background.
Adam LaRoche is a baseball man, but he's also a family man, and for most of his going on four decades these two facets of life have been intertwined.
It started before he can even remember, during his dad's late playing and early coaching days with the Yankees. The older he got, the more he hung around, shining shoes and fetching hot dogs and shagging flies. A little baseball, a little work ethic. It went on like that throughout most of the boys' childhoods, a traveling band of LaRoches -- parents Dave and Patty, plus sons Jeff, Adam and Andy -- bouncing from city to city and organization to origination year after year, until the mid-90s when they settled in Fort Scott, Kan.
"They grew up around ballparks. It was our life," Dave said. "Adam, obviously he remembers those things fondly and he wanted the same memories for his son."
Fort Scott is a tiny town of about 8,000 in southeastern Kansas near the Missouri border. Life at home was a lot like life on the road: family and baseball, one rarely without the other.
Dave LaRoche helped his brother-in-law, Dave Regan, build and coach the Fort Scott High Tigers baseball program, which five of their combined six sons played for. Adam LaRoche and Josh Regan -- cousins by blood, best friends by bond -- brought the team to within a win of a state title in 1998.
When Dave LaRoche got a gig coaching the local juco team, Fort Scott Community College, Adam played for him there for a season, too.
The Brothers LaRoche grew up and chased the pro ball dream. Two of them found it. Dave got back into coaching for a bit, spending time in the Royals, Blue Jays and Mets systems.
Jeff, the oldest son and only pitcher, played in various Minor, independent and foreign leagues for six seasons. Andy, the youngest, saw time with four Major League teams across six seasons, and for about a year -- July 2008 to July 2009 -- was teammates with Adam on the Pirates.
Adam, of course, has had the most success. He is -- was -- a career .260/.336/.462 hitter with 255 home runs over 12 seasons. He won Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards with the Nationals in 2012.
Now he'll retreat to home, to Fort Scott. Drake will be there. So will his wife, Jennifer, and their daughter, Montana, who turns 13 this summer.
Maybe Adam will hang around the LaRoche Baseball Complex and Dave Regan Stadium, a $2.5 million project he funded and oversaw. Maybe he'll help Josh, who has taken over for his dad, coach their old high school team. Maybe he'll stick to his hunting and fishing hobbies.
Whatever LaRoche does, there's a good chance baseball will be involved somewhere along the way -- and an even better chance family will be, too. LaRoche's decision to walk away makes that clear.
"It says a lot, doesn't it? He has character," Dave said. "His family is important to him. God and his family come before baseball."