Rangers starting pitcher Colby Lewis made history last week but not for something he did on the field.  Usually, when a pitcher makes history it’s because he accomplished something great (or completely horrible) on the mound, but Lewis made history by being the first player in Major League Baseball history to take advantage of the new “paternity leave” list, which allows players 24-72 hours for paternity leave upon the birth of a child.

This got me thinking about how we prioritize our lives.  Especially in light of Richie Whitt’s column, in which the writer comes down on Lewis for missing a start for the birth of his second child, and then his follow-up column in which he shares some of the more colorful names the good readers called him, he reiterates his stance.

Certainly Mr. Whitt has garnered quite a bit of negative attention for his opinion, which may have been what he was going for in the first place, but that doesn’t take away from the initial issue at hand.

What priorities should a player have?  Should a player put the team ahead of everything else, including his own family simply because he makes a lot of money, or should a player recognize that there are important things in life, things that are more important than making one of 30+ starts in a single season of his career?

Whitt brings up Shane Battier, the Memphis Grizzlies player who made the game winning shot in Game 1 of their series against the San Antonio Spurs on the night that his wife gave birth.  He also mentions that Cowboy fans would be upset if Jason Witten missed a game for similar reasons.  However, aren’t these completely different cases?  After all, with Battier, we are talking about the playoffs, and with Witten, we are talking about a 16-game season.  Both of those instances carry much broader ramifications for the team than a pitcher’s start in the middle of April.  Even so, I wouldn’t blame Battier or Witten if they chose their family over their team in those instances as well.

We have to be willing and able to set our priorities in this life, and for some people, they are going to put their family first, and who can blame them.  Regarding players taking time off for funerals, Whitt writes:

Departures? Totally get it because at a funeral you’re saying goodbye to someone for the last time. But an arrival is merely saying hello to someone you’ll see the rest of your life.

“Merely saying hello to someone you’ll see the rest of your life” doesn’t seem like a very poetic way to describe childbirth, nor does it seem to understand how special it really is.  Earlier in the column, Whitt also says that he does not have any kids of his own, but has raised a step-son for eight years and he understands the love and sacrifice it takes to raise a child.  In other words, childbirth is not something that he has ever experienced, and so maybe we can forgive him a little for his opinion that places the game – read that again, game – of baseball ahead of family.  Certainly, he does not deserve to be called the ridiculous names that people called him.  His opinion may have been off, but that is no excuse to attack a man personally.

Ultimately, I applaud Lewis for being the first to take advantage of the paternity leave, which is now offered by MLB.  Certainly there were going to be some people like Whitt who took exception to Lewis’ priorities being on the family and not the game, but let’s put it in perspective.  Lewis will make an additional 30 starts this season (barring injury), but his wife will not be giving birth to this child again.

Priorities.  We all have them.  What are yours?

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