The Spirit of New Orleans (Baseball Style)

When I lived in Orlando back in the 1980s, one of my great pleasures was going to baseball games at Tinker Field. During the regular season it was the home field for the Orlando Twins, a minor league affiliate of the major league club in Minnesota, and for about six weeks every year - from late February until the first week of April – the Minnesota club held their Spring Training sessions there. One of my favorite Twins players during that period was a guy named Ron Washington. He wasn’t a star or even a regular player, but one that settled into the versatile role of a “utility” infielder. Whenever I saw Ron Washington play or take infield practice before games, I could tell that he was very focused on the game and observant of what was happening around him. I had the chance to talk with him briefly one time in Orlando and was further impressed with his attitude and outlook.

It doesn’t surprise me that after retiring as a player Ron Washington became a highly regarded coach in the majors. During the past decade he has worked for the Oakland A’s, coaching and helping develop the skills of many young players coming up to play in “the show.” Due to Washington’s dedication and the great respect the players have for him, one newspaper dubbed him “the heart and soul of the team.”

A native of New Orleans, Ron Washington was featured in a couple of post-hurricane news reports on sports websites last week. Luckily, his family left town before Hurricane Katrina struck, but their home was damaged and most of their possessions were lost. Last week Washington took a temporary leave from his team and went to Alabama to spend three days in a shelter where his wife and 26 other family members were staying. “It was a humbling experience,” he said. “I wouldn't wish staying in a shelter on anyone. I'm one of those guys who believe you don't try to worry about things you can't control. But the more I watch it on TV, my heart begins to go out to the very poor people who are in New Orleans and don't have anything."

"Wash is a guy who puts everybody before himself," said A's outfielder Nick Swisher, who has known Washington since he was ten. "For someone who's gone through what his family has gone through and to be as upbeat as he is, that sums up Wash."

Washington has been showered with offers of help from his team and even former A’s players such as Jason Giambi. "Fans have reached out and tried to help. Ballplayers have reached out to help. I'm overwhelmed by the love and caring that everyone's showing,” said Washington. “I'll be glad when we can get back to New Orleans being New Orleans. It's my home and I want to go back and do as much as I can to help it come back."

With caring citizens like Ron Washington involved, it’s a good bet that New Orleans will rebuild quickly and the spirit of the great city will indeed come back even stronger than before.


John in Atlanta said...

I have to agree with you. The spirit of New Orleans will never die. I can't wait to see it come back. Like the mythical phoenix that arose from the ashes, we should come up with a mythical creature that arises from the troubled waters.

I used to attend games at Tinker Field too. Though not as many as I would have liked. I'm very surprised I never saw you there. After all I've known you since high school :-)

E'l Roy said...

The phoenix, however, doesn't arise from its own ashes at the behest of corporate interest and cronyism.

What about Godzilla, who arose from waters troubled by nuclear testing? While s/he might have destroyed countless Japanese cities, Godzilla went on to star as the hero of many movies, saving the world from more nefarious creatures, like the Smog Monster!