PHOENIX — Tony La Russa has never missed the managing part of baseball since retiring in 2011. He did miss the competition and, most particularly, the winning.
That’s what drew him back to the big leagues.
Bolstering their front office, the Arizona Diamondbacks hired La Russa as their chief baseball officer on Saturday, hoping the Hall of Fame manager can help turn around the team after one of the worst starts in franchise history.
"It’s the first day I woke up and I felt a difference," La Russa said. "Because for the first time since then you’re back with an organization and at the end of the day you’re going to be judged by how well your contribution is to the organization’s competition. That’s how I grew up."
La Russa last worked as a manager in 2011, walking away after leading the St. Louis Cardinals to their second World Series title with him at the helm.
He spent time working for Major League Baseball as a special assistant to Commissioner Bud Selig and was itching to get back into baseball on a day-to-day basis, appearing at Diamondbacks games a few times the past few weeks.
La Russa will report to Diamondbacks President Derrick Hall and oversee the entire baseball operations department. He will work with general manager Kevin Towers and manager Kirk Gibson in shaping the future of the Diamondbacks, who were 16-28 heading into Saturday night’s game against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
"It is going to take time, but I think having him here and helping us lead this department, it looks good for us," Hall said. "Any decisions that are going to be made personnel wise, he’s going to have final say."
La Russa won three World Series titles and six league championships and was a four-time manager of the year in 33 seasons before retiring in 2011. He will be inducted into the Hall of Fame in July and is third with 2,728 wins as a manager and second with 70 postseason wins.
La Russa played parts of six seasons in the majors before starting a managerial career that began in 1979 with the Chicago White Sox and took him to Oakland and St. Louis, where he won World Series rings in 2006 and 2011. He also won a title with the A’s in 1989, joining Sparky Anderson as the only two managers to win World Series in both leagues.
"I understand the levels of decision making," La Russa said. "And all I’m saying here is that you include everybody in the process. But I think the advantage that we hope to have is that everybody on the competitive side is working from the same thought philosophy."