PHOENIX — Saying he missed the competition, Tony La Russa is once again part of a Major League club.
He officially joined the Arizona Diamondbacks on Saturday but unlike his previous stops with the Chicago White Sox, Oakland Athletics and St. Louis Cardinals, he will not put on the uniform and manage.
La Russa takes over as the organization’s Chief Baseball Officer, a brand new position that will oversee the D-backs’ entire baseball operations department.
“I never have missed the managing. I missed the winning and losing,” he said at a Saturday afternoon press conference.
La Russa retired three seasons ago, ending a 33-year managerial run that included three World Series titles, six League Championships and 12 division titles, a resume that earned him election to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
“I woke up this morning for the first time since the day the retirement was announced, which was the Monday after the 2011 season, it’s the first day I woke up and I felt a difference,” he 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 grew up.”
The D-backs had been looking to make a move given how the season started — at 16-28 they own the third-worst record in the majors and currently sit a season-high 11.5 games out of first place in the NL West — and chose this direction.
“It is going to take time, but I think having (La Russa) here and helping us lead this department it looks good for us,” said team president and CEO Derrick Hall, who added, “any decisions that are going to be made personnel wise, he’s going to have final say.”
La Russa will report directly to Hall while working closely with GM Kevin Towers and manager Kirk Gibson.
“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.”
He had yet to meet the team and only briefly had spoken with Towers and Gibson ahead of the press conference.
La Russa said he planned to address all parties on Sunday before beginning an extensive evaluation process, which will include both the major and minor league levels.
“My heart is pure and my intentions are great; and (will) do the best I can,” he said. “I just think when you work with really good people, we’re going to improve. (I’m) looking forward to the challenge.”