This week Dustin Pedroia, the 09 AL MVP, was MIA from the roster of the Boston Red Sox Vs. Oakland games because of a “family matter”. It turns out his wife, Kelli, is expecting their first child and went into preterm labor at 7 months. With the blessing of his team and manager, Terry Francona, Petroia spent the night in the hospital with his wife.
Francona noted that “There was no other choice – being with Kelly was where Dustin had to be.” He recalled during the press conference that his own wife still is miffed for his missing one of his daughter’s births for a ball game almost 22 years ago. He wasn’t going going to let Dustin make that same mistake.
This isn’t the first time Red Sox players have missed games for family reasons. JD Drew missed a few games when one of his kids was sick and Jason Bay missed a game when his wife delivered one of his kids. Those were the right decisions and a message to us all that sometimes, many times, the game is secondary, even at the pro level.
It wasn’t always this way. The old school way of playing, which cost Francona being at his daughter’s birth, was painful for a lot of players personally who still feel the sting of those moments.
However, for our young players, the old mentality of game before family exists all too often costing young players family time for the sake of the game. It’s time that changes, especially since the pro world model is to put family first.
As the summer leagues roll on and molt into a new school year of school sports seasons, don’t get caught up in the hype of “game before family”. I see too many families prioritizing sports before family for situations that do not merit those choices. As memories fade over time, the memory of the game will pale compared to the sting you and your young player will feel for having missed the family event – whatever it may be. It’s simply not worth it.
Good coaches and sports administrators get this and will support a young athlete missing a game (or practice) for important family reasons without penalty. Use that as your litmus as you weigh with your child the teams to devote time to and the teams that may be better off leaving behind.
The old style of game before family was barely tolerable in the pros and rationalized by the big bucks and glory. Our kids are playing for the fun of it, their development and self esteem. Many times, those attributes are developed best off the field with family and that’s what we all have to remember. And, we have to be ever mindful that this is childhood and in the end it’s only a game.