In 1983, when Eduardo Perez was 13, he spent so much time at Philadelphia's Veterans Stadium with his major league father, Tony Perez, that he was even in the Phillies' dugout during games. The experience helped shape his future big league career, especially the day he was flicking sunflower seeds in the dugout and accidentally hit Pete Rose with one.
Rose, naturally, was not pleased. "What the f--- are you doing?!'' he snapped at Perez.
"I was stunned,'' Perez recalled. "It was my first year in the dugout, and Pete told me, 'If you're going to sit here during the game, you have to watch every pitch and let me know what it was.' I'm 13 years old, and he tells me this. So for the rest of the year during the games, I was sitting on the steps and studying every pitch. And then Pete would tell me, 'See what the pitcher does with his glove. When he turns his glove, it's going to be a curveball.'"
Such instruction helped Perez become a major league player like his Hall of Fame father. Decades later, he still looks back fondly on those days.
"If you took away me being on the field and being away from my dad ... I wouldn't have known what to do," he said. "I wouldn't have been a major leaguer. I wouldn't be doing what I'm doing now."
Children in baseball clubhouses and on the diamonds became a subject of debate this week, when Adam LaRoche gave up a $13 million contract to retire because the White Sox said his 14-year-old son, Drake, could not spend unlimited time around the team. In explaining the team policy, White Sox executive vice president Kenny Williams said professions generally do not allow children to be at their parents' workplaces every hour of every day -- if they are allowed at all.
Perez said he sees the White Sox's point of view but sides with LaRoche. Others said children should be allowed around teams -- being with big league fathers is important because they are away from home so much -- but they understand that clubs should be able to set policies regarding when and how.
"I feel that, first and foremost, the club has the right to impose policy on kids in the clubhouse," said former major leaguer Aaron Boone, who recalls the "great blessing" of frequently going to the ballpark with his dad, Bob. "As a player, you're an employee. It's upon you to live and abide by the rules the organizations set in place."
Seattle Mariners pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr. likewise enjoyed many days at spring training and Yankee Stadium with his father, Mel Sr., but he understands that times have changed, from security issues to the business of the game.
"The timing of allowing the kids in is different now. And I get it," he said. "The pressure of winning, of getting the players ready -- there are so many more different distractions in trying to get your guys ready. I get it.
"Everyone has their different rules and standards, and they see things differently, and you have to respect that. The game is still the game, but it's more business now. And you have to do what the managers want, and what he expects of you. They're the boss.''
Stottlemyre and Perez remember that when they were young, they were not to be in the clubhouse after a game if the team lost -- only after victories. Also, Stottlemyre said, whatever happened in the clubhouse "stayed in the clubhouse." Boone recalled that he was allowed to ride his Big Wheel around the clubhouse as a kid (today he probably would be on a hoverboard or staring at a video game), but he also had to obey certain rules of behavior.
Rules regarding children in the clubhouse and on the field vary. Oakland manager Bob Melvin said he has no problem with kids in the clubhouse, except after batting practice ends. New Seattle manager Scott Servais said having family around is important, but he agrees there need to be limits.
"Different clubs had different rules, different levels of leniency,'' Boone said. "In the Phillies' clubhouse, my brother, Bret, and me got to do so much. We had our own unis, shared a locker, hit and shagged, had the run of the place. But with that came a responsibility that you had to know how to act. You had to know how to disappear.
"That was part of the deal, almost an unspoken thing. One of the reasons Dad took us to the ballpark all the time was we knew how to act, we knew how to be around that environment, that situation. We knew who not to bother, where not to be. And by all accounts, Adam's son was tremendous with that too."
Perez remembers the first time he was allowed to wear a uniform at a stadium. He expected the jersey to have Perez and his father's No. 24 on the back. Instead, it had "BB" for bat boy. He was disappointed but quickly learned why and adapted.
"Dad said, 'You can have a uniform now, but you're going to have to work. You'll be a ball boy, a bat boy, you'll go get gum for players,'" he said.
Perez, who remains friends with Ken Griffey Jr. and Pete Rose Jr. since their days as kids in the Reds' clubhouse -- "I see us as a fraternity of major league sons who grew up together'' -- said a child's age should play a part in clubhouse policy. Kids younger than 10 or so need more restrictions for safety reasons.
"Once you start getting into your teenage years, that's different," he said. "I would love to see teenagers out on the field. They're at an age when you want them around.''
Oakland outfielder Sam Fuld has three children, ages 6, 4 and 2, with another on the way. He said kids in the clubhouse can be a complicated issue, but he thinks it's important to let them in.
"One of the best parts of being a dad in baseball is being able to take your kids in the clubhouse,'' he said. "When my playing days are over and I look back on my career, those will be some of the moments I'll remember best, and hopefully I'll have provided them with some memories of their dad as a ballplayer and not a washed-up old bum.''
Perhaps his kids will become major leaguers too, as LaRoche did after being with his big league father, Dave. Maybe so will his son, Drake.
Or maybe Drake will convince his father to stay with the White Sox and give him his $13 million salary. As Boone joked, Drake could tell him, "I'll stay home and put the money in my bank account.''