Major League coaches have a tough job. They always have to be making decisions regarding the game, what moves to make, how to set up the play, getting your team to the play offs and dealing with lots of different personalities.
Tony La Russa knows what it is like to be a World Champion, taking his previous team, the Oakland Athletics to a championship in 1989 and his Redbirds to the series the year before last, and again here in October 06.
La Russa also knows there are a lot of animals that have it tough too. During the off season, he spends his time raising money for ARF, the Animal Rescue Foundation that he and his wife Elaine created in 1991. The goal of ARF is to find homes for stray animals, and save them from being euthanized. The organization also has educational programs on controlling pet over-population.
He loves animals and is doing all he can to help save them.
MM: What’s it like to be a coach?
TL: It’s a neat way to be close to the game when you are not playing because you are still involved. The neatest thing is when you have a team that has a chance to win because that is what it is all about. It’s a competition and you like to have enough time for you to be the winner.
MM: What is a typical day like?
TL: I think with all coaches, you come to the ballpark and your biggest responsibility is to try to put players in a position to be successful, so you pay a lot of attention. If you’re a pitching coach you work with your pitchers and if you’re a hitting coach you try to find ways your hitters can get base hits.
MM: What is your best and worst baseball moment?
TL: The best is winning a World Championship and the worst is getting to the World Series and getting beat three times.
MM: Can you tell me about ARF?
TL: ARF stands for the Animal Rescue Foundation that my wife and I have always been really passionate about. There are companion animals that we didn’t want to be euthanized because they couldn’t find homes, so fifteen years ago we started a foundation to try to get more of those animals into families and at the same time we have also found that there are a lot of ways that the animals have helped people, like seniors who need companionship or victims of violence that need some kind of love and tenderness and kids need to be part of their learning life experiences so there’s a lot of things that animals do for people.
MM: What was your most memorable baseball game?
TL: I think probably one or two. Watching Mark McGwire in 1998 set the home run record, that was amazing, but I think the most memorable was in (’04), game 7 at home, when the Cardinals were able to beat the Houston Astros to win the National League Championship, because we had come close but had never won the national league and we won it against a really good Houston club that we respect. They had guys like Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio, and then they had a legend in Roger Clemens pitching, and it was just a great game and to win that competition was just the best.
MM: What advice do you have for kids who might one day want to be a coach?
You have to start by trying to play yourself and learn the game. If you love the game, you want to learn it and the more you learn about it the more you can pass along. Play as much as you can and learn as much as you can.
If you would like to learn more about Tony La Russa’s foundation, ARF, go to www.ARF.net.