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Travis Shaw, son of a former big leaguer, sympathizes with Adam LaRoche

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Jeff Shaw spent 12 years in the big leagues as a relief pitcher. Once his oldest son, Travis, turned 8 in 1998, he started bringing him to work every day.

Nobody objected.

There were rules, of course. Travis wasn't allowed to enter the training room, where players received treatment for aches, pains and full-fledged injuries. The batting cage was off-limits too, at least when Jeff's teammates wanted to use it. But Travis was free to shag fly balls in the outfield during batting practice, hang out at his dad's locker and even partake of the food in the players' lounge.

"My dad kind of told me the rules -- what to do, what not to do," said Travis Shaw, now an infielder with the Boston Red Sox. "As long as you followed those, there was never any issue."

So Shaw can't wrap his mind around the situation involving Adam LaRoche, the veteran first baseman who on Wednesday chose to retire (and forfeit $13 million this season) because the Chicago White Sox wanted to limit the time his 14-year-old son spent with him at the ballpark.

This doesn't make any sense to Shaw, who has only fond memories of his dad's days with the Cincinnati Reds and Los Angeles Dodgers. Shaw can't say for certain that he wouldn't have gotten interested in baseball if he hadn't been able to tag along, but he's sure his bond with his father became closer because they were able to be together.

"It definitely meant a lot to him that we could spend that time together," Shaw said. "My brother was 2 years old when he retired, and my dad always told me that he feels bad that he didn't get to experience what I got to experience. It's a family game."

Since at least Terry Francona's tenure as manager, the Red Sox have welcomed children into the clubhouse. David Ortiz's son, D'Angelo, has been a steady presence around the team for years, while Francona grew particularly fond of Victor Martinez's son, Victor Jose, in 2010.

Red Sox manager John Farrell said Thursday that the club has tightened its policy the past two years and now allows field access for children only before batting practice. Once the team commences stretching exercises, children aren't permitted on the field.

But since Dave Dombrowski took over as the team's president of baseball operations in August, his 16-year-old son, Landon, has spent considerable time around the clubhouse. Landon has even taken batting practice on a back field at the Red Sox's spring training complex the first few weeks of camp.

"Having three sons of my own, I understand the bond and the connection, and you want to not miss days with your son," Farrell said. "I don't think our guys have abused it. We want to have a welcoming environment for players' sons to be around their dads. That's the way we run it."

Jeff Shaw made sure young Travis never got in anybody's way, just as his then-Dodgers teammates Kevin Brown and Chad Kreuter took care to police their sons. Now that he's in the big leagues, Travis Shaw said, he has never felt that the presence of children in the clubhouse is a distraction.

"Honestly, I think some guys like having kids around," said Shaw, who does not have kids of his own. "It doesn't mess up your routine or anything like that. Obviously, if it was an issue, it would be addressed, probably with the player first. But there's never, ever been an issue I've seen, which makes [LaRoche's situation] even more odd."

The White Sox want to reduce the amount of time children are permitted in the clubhouse by 50 percent. Team president Ken Williams defended the policy by pointing out that most workplaces aren't accepting of employees' bringing their kids to work, though it's also worth noting that baseball players are away from home half the year, which makes family time rare during the season.

Regardless, that was a non-starter for LaRoche, who reportedly might have been promised that his son, Drake, would be granted full access to the clubhouse and the field.

After growing up with that privilege, Shaw sympathizes with LaRoche.

"I don't understand who makes their decisions or who tells somebody they can't do that," Shaw said. "You can tell what kind of guy Adam is. I kind of commend him for walking away like that. It's kind of unfortunate.

"I'm sure a lot of kids growing up now, down the road, when they look back and see that they were in the clubhouse with their dad, it's going to mean a lot to them down the road," Shaw said. "I definitely do think it kind of molded me into who I am today, and I'm thankful for it."