Carl Crawford Leads Off- Another Baseball Season, Another Paternity Leave

Los Angeles Dodger Carl Crawford will begin the 2014 baseball season on paternity leave, making use of MLB’s forward-thinking policy- the first of its kind in major US sports. I see this as yet another reason to celebrate the beginning of a new baseball season!

283px-Carl_Crawford
Soon-to-be new dad Carl Crawford {Photo by Googie man under Creative Commons license}

(A quick note: Today I have articles published at Good Men Project and Daily Plate of Crazy. Please go check them out. I’ll also re-post them here soon)

Baseball season starts a bit early this year, with the Los Angeles Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks playing a two-game series in Sydney, Australia on March 22-23, a full week before traditional opening day.

However, Dodgers’ outfielder Carl Crawford’s wife is expected to have her baby near that date, and he will be the first player of the 2014 season to avail himself of MLB’s paternity leave policy.

Last season, I highlighted several players who took paternity leave (see prior articles here), Here’s a quick summary of the policy:

It is only 72 hours, but it’s a step in the right direction. Baseball’s policy, unique among major sports, represents a formal endorsement of the concept of paternity leave.

Prior to this policy, players were often excused for a day or two by their teams- but it was totally at management’s discretion, and the team would have to play with the disadvantage of one fewer player on the roster until the new dad returned.

Now, teams can call up a player from their minor league system to replace the new dad on the roster for the 2-3 games he misses and the team cannot deny up to a 72-hour leave.

It is refreshing to see progressive family leave policies in the particularly macho and win-at-all-costs alpha male culture of US Major League Sports.

Nick and I are huge baseball fans- even before we knew about their paternity leave policy
Nick and I are huge baseball fans- even before we knew about their paternity leave policy

Last season, I interviewed MLB executive Paul Mifsud about the paternity leave policy. I was pleased to hear that the league, teams, and players association all approved the policy without much debate and that the policy has been universally embraced. In MLB’s view, paternity leave is a common-sense solution because fatherhood is important and it is important to assist valued employees for family reasons. In our interview, Mifsud encapsulated this perfectly:

In such a long season, there’s more of a need for moments of accommodation for appropriate reasons.

Indeed, baseball is a long 7-month season of six games a week. But most of us work even longer 12-month seasons. Thankfully, progressive employers are beginning to see the light and the critical issue of paternity leave has received extensive attention here and elsewhere in the media. I am heartened by this progress.

From the "New Dads" study. Dads don't get (or take) enough paternity leave
From the “New Dads” study. Dads don’t get (or take) enough paternity leave

Progress is still desperately needed. According to Boston College’s Center for Work and Family’s study of working dads:

  • Almost none take formal paternity leave
  • 75% of men take one week or less of accumulated time off (sick, personal, vacation days) after the birth of a child
  • 16% are unable to take any days off after the birth of a child

Considering that dads’ time with children benefits everyone- kids, moms, dads, families, society- we need more support for working dads. Thanks, MLB!

What do you think about MLB’s Paternity Leave Policy? Any paternity leave stories to share? Let’s discuss in the comments section.

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PS- This season, I will do occasional round-up articles of players who have used Paternity Leave, and would appreciate it if you would let me know if you hear about a player on your favorite team who is making use of the policy. I will also keep a running count on the FWF facebook page and will, at the All-Star break, present the All-Paternity League Team.

11 thoughts on “Carl Crawford Leads Off- Another Baseball Season, Another Paternity Leave

  1. It’s happening in hockey also. T.J. Oshie of the St. Louis Blues and of Soshi Olympics fame, missed last night’s game to be with his fiancee after she delivered their child. Family should always come first.

    • Correct, and this happens all the time (and was what happened in baseball before their 2011 policy). But he was only able to do so at his team’s permission, and the Blues had to play one man short on the bench. If the NHL had the same policy as MLB, Oshie could not have been denied leave and the Blues could have called up a 3-day replacement from their AHL affiliate.

  2. It’s great to read about more and more examples of baseball players taking paternity leave. I keep thinking about how this compares to the UK where footballers – like the vast majority of men who work – are currently entitled to take two weeks of paternity leave following the birth of their child. However, I can’t recall ever hearing about a player taking more than a day or two off. When this does happen, it’s sometimes said the player was granted time off by their club when such time off is actually a legal entitlement. I’ve been thinking of doing a blog post about footballers in the UK and fatherhood for a while now, must get round to writing it.

  3. It is not surprising that baseball is first to institute paternity leave. Baseball plays a season of more than 160 games so a missed game or two constitutes a small portion of the season and is unlikely to have a major effect on a team’s season. If a player were to take off 72 hours, missing 3 games, this is only 2% of the season missed.

    It will be interesting to see whether football will follow suite. A single missed game in football is 6% of the season and several players, the quarterback in particular, are critical to team performance. The absence of a key football player for even one game could affect the result of the game or even the season.

    I applaud MLB’s decision to allow a player time to be with family at such an important time and think it is long overdue. However, I do not think it will be copied by other professional team sports any time soon.

    • Agreed. In fact, the long season with very few days off was one of the reasons given by MLB for putting this policy in place.
      It is indeed harder in football. This past season, Charles Tillman and Ben Roetlisberger both said they would miss a game for birth/just after but the babies came midweek.
      Joe Flacco played even as his wife went into labor, but his family had planned for that contingency (I wrote about Flacco when it happened). Indeed, it is harder, especially for a QB to take a game off.

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