As both Mrs. Dude and I have been self-employed for many years, we won’t get the luxury many people have of extended paid maternity or paternity leave from work. I’m not going to lie, that sucks. But it’s a part of life that we have accepted. We’ll both be back at work pretty quickly after Baby #2 arrives in the near future: me within a few days and her probably within a couple weeks.
There is another group of people who are in a very similar position with limited, if any, time to spend with their newborns: professional athletes in season.
While there is a slight disparity between my income and theirs, we both have to get right back to business. But thanks to a recent rule change, current major league baseball players get something no players in the previous 100+ years of American professional sports ever got: paternity leave.
The long baseball season runs from the start of spring training in February through the World Series in October, or the better part of 8 months. Apparently one thing a lot of players do in the offseason is make babies. In many cases players spend much of the year separated from their families. Not surprisingly many players’ wives get pregnant shortly into the offseason and deliver during the following season. (Maybe that’s why so many players in the 1980s and 1990s needed to take extra testosterone?)
With the minimum salary in the major leagues currently set at a paltry $480,000, one thing players fought for in their most recent collective bargaining agreement (CBA) was paternity leave. Now when players’ wives are close to popping out their own infield flies, said players can be placed on a “Paternity List” which allows them to be away from the team for 24-72 hours. There’s been a debate lately, with the number of players who’ve utilized the list, about whether players should be afforded this luxury or if they should suck it up as tens of thousands before them did and miss the birth of their children just like many other significant events that occur during the season. Some might say it’s a trade off for the great fame and wealth they receive in exchange for being able to hit a fast moving ball with a piece of lumber.
As a parent, I think the rule totally makes sense. Parental bonding at the time of birth is very important. As a Cleveland Indians fan, I saw two players utilize their right to paternity leave this year while their wives both delivered twins: Johnny Damon and Shelly Duncan. Those players hit .222 and .203 respectively this year for the Tribe, so their temporary loss probably didn’t have too negative of an impact on the team’s season. In fact, it was probably better for the Tribe to be without them for a few days. On a sad note for them, both players were dropped by the Indians later in the season. Or you could look at it more glass-half-full style as Johnny and Shelly received an unexpected extended paternity leave in August.
There is a great story about former Reds pitcher Tom Browning. You may recall Browning as an above-average lefty who threw a perfect game in 1988. A couple years later, when the Reds were in the World Series, Browning was faced with a dilemma. His wife was going into labor at a nearby hospital in the middle of a game he wasn’t pitching. The game went to extra innings and since there was no Blackberry Messenger at the time, then-Reds skipper Lou Piniella had the broadcasters urge Browning to leave his wife and return to the stadium. Browning heard the message, but stayed with his wife for the delivery and the Reds went on to win the game and sweep the A’s. And Lou Piniella earned his reputation as an A-hole.
Baseball is a team sport with 162 regular season games. If a guy is gone for a few days, the team should be able to get by. Then again, if it’s a star player and the team loses while he’s gone and they miss the playoffs by a game or two, do you think he should feel guilty or responsible? Should players receive paid-time-off from their (in many cases) multi-million dollar a year jobs to be with their families? I say absolutely. Who cares what Lou Piniella thinks.
Dude Of The House is an Ohio-native who has lived in Southern California for more than a dozen years, but is still a die-hard Indians, Browns, Cavs and Buckeyes fan. He’s warmed up to the Dodgers after many years but still thinks that watching pitchers hit is ridiculous. He doesn’t follow LA’s pro football team.
When not hanging out here, he can be found at Dudeofthehouse.blogspot.com or wasting way too much time on Facebook and still trying to figure out the purpose of Twitter. Go stop by and say hello. Bring deep-dish pizza, if you can.