Ian Desmond and Bryce Harper joke with Drake LaRoche during 2014 spring training. (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)
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VIERA, Fla. — The Adam LaRoche-White Sox situation has reverberated across baseball because many players are fathers and know LaRoche, who is one of the most respected and popular players in the game. Here at Space Coast Stadium, two teammates who were close with LaRoche during his four years with the Nationals — Tyler Moore and Bryce Harper — have thought much about their friend and his son, Drake.

LaRoche, who struggled last season but was still under contract for $13 million this season, opted to retire after the White Sox told him to cut back his 14-year-old son’s visits to the clubhouse. His decision and Chicago’s reasoning has sparked much debate and head scratching inside and outside the sport.

Moore — who was particularly close to LaRoche when he was a National, even staying at his house in D.C. during several call-ups in 2014 — said he talked to LaRoche some this week and offered his support.

“They don’t get much better of a guy and a guy with integrity than that,” Moore said. “It’s unfortunate. The White Sox seem to have their minds made up about what they want to do and Rochy made his mind up. I know baseball has been good to him and his family. He’s very blessed to play this game. But sometimes there are things more important than your job. Fortunately, he can kinda ride off into the sunset and enjoy his family. I wish him all the best.”

Nationals Manager Dusty Baker said he loves having kids around the clubhouse. He comes from a family of five and, with the Dodgers under Manager Tommy Lasorda, kids were always around the clubhouse, too. Baker and his son, Darren, had a famous on-field incident during the 2002 World Series when J.T. Snow saved the then-three-year-old from being run over at home plate.

“Then, I had cancer,” Baker said. “When he got rescued at home plate, I didn’t know if I was going to live past that World Series. I wanted to give my son everything that I could give him. People ask me, ‘Why was he out there?’ and this and that: because I had cancer.

“But on the other hand, every organization can do whatever they want to do. You can’t judge (another organization) from afar. All I can do is answer what we’re going to do here. Personally here, I’m going to do what I’ve always done: invite kids in. They have rules that kids can’t be on the field after a certain time or until they’re a certain age. That rule was also because of my son.”

Both Moore and Harper said that Drake never impeded with their work. Drake was beloved by Nationals players. When the Nationals clinched the 2012 National League East title, Harper and Drake drank sparkling cider while the adults celebrated with beer and champagne. LaRoche was also one of the veteran players to mentor Harper when he first reached the big leagues.

“When he was with us, Drake was never in the way,” Harper said. “The one thing about Drake is that he cleaned cleats and helped with the laundry or did stuff like what a clubhouse kid would do. He hit in the cage as well. He was one of the guys. It was fun to see him around.”

Harper admired the father-son relationship between LaRoche and Drake. Sure, most jobs don’t allow employees to bring their children to the workplace daily. But most jobs don’t have their employees traveling and away from home as frequently as professional baseball players.

“I always had a good relationship with my pop,” Harper said. “And seeing that, and hopefully one day I have kids, I can share that with my kid and bring him in the clubhouse and really enjoy my career with me. We’re gone so long from their lives for eight months of the year that some guys miss the first steps of their kid. It’s tough. You want to enjoy this as long as you can and do this with them as well. I try to enjoy that with my family. It’s definitely a tough situation.”

Moore also said Drake never caused any issues. He helped wash cleats, he caught balls for infielders and helped pick up balls.

“He was probably more helpful than anything,” Moore said. “The funny thing is you could have an adult conversation with him and he was only 12 years old at the time. He’s going on [14] now. He was very mature and a very disciplined child. It was fun to see him every day.”

Twelve-year-old Drake LaRoche might not have an actual contract with the Washington Nationals, but the team has considered him one of their own ever since he started showing up at spring training with his father Adam LaRoche six years ago. (Whitney Leaming/The Washington Post)

DAYS UNTIL OPENING DAY: 17