With Trump, Kids, and Smokeless Tobacco Gone, What’s Left For Chicago to Ban?

Perhaps feeling froggy after successfully protesting the world’s most infamous pompadour and its host body out of town, Chicago’s City Council decided to take aim at another scourge. The legislative body voted Tuesday to raise the city’s smoking age from 18 to 21 and also banned smokeless tobacco from both amateur and profession sporting events. Yes, even at ballparks.

The ruling didn’t go over too well with Joe Maddon and some of the Cubs players, even those who don’t dip, mainly because they don’t agree with the idea of legislating personal choice. Maddon said that he gave up the nasty habit eight years ago and feels better as a result, but that he thinks adults who understand the risks should be able to expose themselves of their own free will. That’s expose to risks, not dropping trou in public.

The Cubs skipper also brought up New York’s limits on soda volume, which I have always thought was a little overboard as well. This is, after all, America, where making bad decisions is our inalienable right. Right?

Miguel Montero is an admitted smokeless tobacco addict who, interestingly enough, actually seemed to understand the ban. He told reporters that he’d probably be a little moody about it, but said that it might end up being a good thing because it would spur him to quit. Or, you know, just put in a smaller lip and try not to get caught.

John Lackey, who apparently only looks as though he’s got a healthy chaw in, took the “we’re grown-ass men, we should be able to do what we want” angle. I’m paraphrasing there, at least the “ass” part, but Lackey did actually lament the ruling in a circular logic kind of way.

“People in the stands can have a beer but we can’t do what we want? That’s a little messed up.”

Lackey did acknowledge that kids watching at home could be influenced by seeing their favorite players chewing, but I don’t know how much that will matter since no one younger than millennials watches the game any more. I do remember watching Nails Dykstra, Dutch Daulton, Krukker, and The Dandy Little Gloveman looking like a group of chipmunks storing up Kodiak instead of acorns and thinking that it was kind of cool. Until they smiled, anyway.

And then there was Sonny, a kid who rode my bus back in the day. He was 10 or so years older than me and was legendary because he used to dip on the way to and from school. Sonny sat in the last seat (because of course he did) and you could always find an empty tin or four wedged back there. I still remember how awful the stuff smelled, and it’s that initial aversion that kept me away from it.

There was always a mystique about chewing though, an allure of forbidden fruit being promoted by my on-field heroes. I have dabbled in actual leaf tobacco, Mail Pouch and Redman, after being introduced to the gateway oral fixation of Big League Chew (which I can’t believe is still a thing in this day and age). While the habit never stuck with me, I’d be lying if I didn’t feel kinda badass, like those Phillies and so many others I admired.

That’s probably part of the reason most parents would prefer not to have professional athletes held up as role models for their kids. Adam LaRoche, however, is not most parents. News of his retirement raised plenty of eyebrows and more than a few questions Tuesday, but we got some answers Wednesday afternoon. According to multiple reports, the 1B/DH chose to walk away from the game and a $13 million salary because the White Sox asked him to dial back the amount of time his 14-year-old son Drake spent with the team.

Listen, I’m all for spending time with family and perhaps no sport embodies inter-generational connection like baseball. But this whole thing seems a little, I don’t know, weird. It’s not like we’re talking about a toddler bumbling around the practice field at Spring Training or anything. Then again, Drake’s been travelling with his dad pretty much his entire life.

In a Chicago Tribune feature last season, Colleen Kane wrote about the LaRoche family’s unique situation.

LaRoche’s wife, Jenn, makes it possible by organizing a complicated schedule that includes the Sox’s travel, Drake and Montana’s schooling and youth baseball and softball games between the families’ homes in the Chicago area and Kansas. Drake skips some Sox home games for his own baseball games, and the family often travels back to Kansas when they don’t go on trips with their dad.

The children go to their local school in Kansas when they’re at home, but the family has an arrangement with the school to take weeks worth of homework with them when they’re on the road. “It’s a little harder not being with all the teachers, but I can get by,” Drake said.

Okay, so let me get this straight: the kid takes time off from his dad’s games to play in his own, but school isn’t important enough to merit more of the same? Maybe I’m just a grumpy old man, but it sounds to me like they’ve got their priorities a little mixed up here. Of course, no sooner had I started to mull it over and sympathize with the family of baseball lifers (LaRoche’s father, Dave, was a pitcher and coach who brought his sons to games) than I read a Washington Post story that featured this little gem:

“We’re not big on school,” LaRoche said. “I told my wife, ‘He’s going to learn a lot more useful information in the clubhouse than he will in the classroom, as far as life lessons.’ ”

That last little bit brought on facepalms for days, particularly since I had just written about the deep-seated bro culture of the locker room for Baseball Essential. I don’t want to make as though all aspects of an MLB clubhouse are detrimental to a kid’s development, but I can’t get behind the idea that being around a bunch of grown men is better than spending time with his peers. I think it’d be a little different if we were talking about just once in a while, or even just during the summers, but Drake LaRoche is on his old man’s hip all season long.

According to the White Sox, the request wasn’t even a matter of banning the young man altogether, but of simply having him spend a little less time with the team. Ken Rosenthal posted the following statement from Sox president Kenny Williams on Facebook Wednesday afternoon:

“There has been no policy change with regards to allowance of kids in the clubhouse, on the field, the back fields during spring training. This young man that we’re talking about, Drake, everyone loves this young man. In no way do I want this to be about him.

“I asked Adam, said, ‘Listen, our focus, our interest, our desire this year is to make sure we give ourselves every opportunity to focus on a daily basis on getting better. All I’m asking you to do with regard to bringing your kid to the ballpark is dial it back.’

“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. I said that I don’t even think he should be here 50 percent of the time. Figure it out, somewhere in between.

“We all think his kid is a great young man. I just felt it should not be every day, that’s all. You tell me, where in this country can you bring your child to work every day?

Boom, Kenny drops the mic to close things out. And he’s right. I mean, I love my kids beyond words, but there’s no way in hell my co-workers would be cool with them playing around in my cubicle all day, every day. My wife occasionally brings them in to eat lunch with me when they’re on breaks — read: NOT DURING SCHOOL — and I’ve gotten complaints about them being too loud while walking back to the cafeteria. Granted, that was when they were too young to know better and the lady who called me out on it was exactly the type of person you’d expect to do such a thing, but still.

I admire Adam LaRoche for being willing to leave all that money on the table, if that’s in fact what he’s doing. The 36-year-old, who’s coming off of a disappointing season on the South Side, has said that he wants to take a couple days to sleep on it before finalizing his decision but that he’s pretty sure walking away is the right thing to do. Maybe he was just weary of the routine and felt that spending time at home with his loved ones was worth more than collecting a (very sizable) paycheck to play a game he had to force himself to love.

So while the circumstances of LaRoche’s retirement(?) make his decision seem like a bit of a knee-jerk reaction to a pretty innocuous request from his employer, it could have been exactly the excuse he was looking for to hang ’em up. Or maybe he just didn’t want his kid around a bunch of guys who’d be spending the rest of the season bitching about the inability to willingly increase their odds of oral cancer while at work.

Just another day in Chicago, huh?

Funny how a city that won’t accept a guy who wants to build a giant wall along the Mexican border is so hellbent on setting up all kinds of proverbial barriers between men and both their vices and their kids. SMH, as members of the millennial menace would tweet.

It’s taken me a very long time to type this all out, what with my tiny baby hands, so I’ll leave you with this final thought. While I can support the decisions of both the City Council and the White Sox, I do fear the day when we as parents are told that we can no longer let our kids chew tobacco at work.

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