A couple of months ago, Ron Washington was supervising baseball millionaires. And on Saturday he was supposed to be managing an All-Star team tour of Japan.
Instead, Washington was at Wesley Barrow Stadium, working with youngsters at an Urban Youth Academy clinic in his native New Orleans. But he was still displaying the same enthusiasm that he’s shown in his half-century in the game, the past eight as manager of the Texas Rangers until his abrupt resignation on Sept. 5.
“There you go! Yes! Beautiful! Beautiful,” Washington said as some of the participants fielded easy grounders on the pristine turf that Major League Baseball funded.
“This is my way to be of help,” Washington said. “I want these kids to know what I’ve gone through and maybe pass along some of the knowledge and wisdom I’ve gained along the way.
“Baseball has always been my life.”
But where baseball takes Washington next is up in the air.
Washington’s resignation was followed a few days later by his public revelation that he “broke the trust” of his wife, Gerry, with whom he’d marked their 42nd anniversary the day before.
And so Washington, whose professional career began in 1970 when he signed with the Kansas City Royals shortly after graduating from John McDonogh and who still makes New Orleans his winter home, is facing the prospect of not being in a dugout for the first time since he can remember.
Saturday was his first public appearance since his exit news conference in Texas.
“I’m not that concerned,” he said. “This situation is something I had to do for my family, and I’m enjoying my time with them.
“I’ll get another opportunity. I’ve got some feelers out there and talking to some people, so we’ll see where it goes.”
But at 62, Washington can’t be sure of getting another opportunity of managing in the majors again.
He guided the Rangers to back-to-back World Series in 2011 and 2012, becoming only the third black manager to take a team that far.
And although Texas was 53-87 when he stepped down (and would finish an MLB worst 66-96), his overall mark was 664-611 with four consecutive 90-win seasons and two pennants. But nobody else has come calling as of yet.
Washington said he did not feel that the reason for his resignation would hold back his future job opportunities.
“The response I’ve gotten is that people know Ron Washington has always been an honest person and that I have a lot of friends in the game,” he said. “They’ve all been supportive.
“And they recognized that sometimes you have to do what you have to do for the sake of your family.”
Back in New Orleans, Washington has spent time helping good friend Ron Maestri with his program at UNO and helping to arrange Saturday’s clinic.
In a time when the lack of black players in the major leagues is being blamed on the lack of playing opportunities in the inner cities, Washington said there are far more opportunities than when we was growing up in New Orleans in the 1960s.
“It’s a lot easier now,” he said. “The instruction is there if you want it, and we have great facilities like this one.
“This is a stepping stone for them to realize their dreams, not only in baseball but in life.”
Darrell Miller of MLB said it was extraordinary to have someone of Washington’s caliber working a youth clinic.
“It’s unbelievable how much of expertise Ron is able to pass along to these kids,” Miller said. “Ron was the backbone of getting this academy built, and he has always invested his time in helping us.
“What you see out there is how he breaks down the game and is very encouraging. But also he’s not afraid to call them out it if they don’t do it right.”
And while Washington said he doesn’t know in what capacity he will return to baseball, he said his passion for the game has not waned.
“I’ll never turn my back on the game of baseball,” he said. “Baseball is in my blood.
“It won’t ever leave me.”