Lessons from Tony La Russa’s commencement speech at Washington University

May 22, 2014, 2:37 AM | Updated: 7:13 pm

Last Friday, Washington University in St. Louis welcomed Tony La Russa to its graduation ceremony.

And, of course, last Saturday, the Arizona Diamondbacks welcomed La Russa to their organization as Chief Baseball Officer.

Later this summer, the National Baseball Hall of Fame will welcome La Russa to its chambers.

It’s going to be a big year for him.

While giving the commencement speech at Washington University, from which he received an honorary doctoral degree, La Russa emphasized a number of messages to those in attendance:

• The concept of “personalization”: taking things personally, being respectful to yourself and others; developing a “strong and meaningful ego but avoiding being egotistical”

• The ceremony at the institution — which was recently called the “smartest” college in America — was more impressive than Opening Day with the St. Louis Cardinals. It was “more real”.

• There’s a difference between “good fear” and “bad fear”. The good propels you into facing a challenge while the bad drives you away from it, fleeing. “Bad fear means you call in sick,” La Russa explained.

“You feel this anxiety, the expectation of pressure and you decide that you’re going to dodge it. And you’re just not going to participate. You will regret that the rest of your life and you’re going to face a lot of opportunities where there’s an uncertain outcome and you’ve been given the opportunity to try it. Bad fear means you call in sick.”

• “You act in a way that you earn your own respect. Don’t ever fool yourself.”

• La Russa self-proclaims that his playing career was “less than mediocre.” And he likes to demean it.

• “Your frame of mind is the key to the kingdom,” he said. “That’s the key to personalization. You control your mind. Don’t let anybody tell you what’s right and wrong.”

It will be interesting to see whether or not any of these messages — which all seemed relatively baseball-centered — find their way into the fabric of the Diamondbacks organization.

Penguin Air

Arizona Diamondbacks

Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Dallas Keuchel flips the rosin bag during the second inning o...
Wills Rice

D-backs avoid sweep with rollercoaster win vs. Tigers in Keuchel’s debut

LHP Dallas Keuchel and the Arizona Diamondbacks secured an 11-7 win over the Detroit Tigers on Sunday in his debut with the team.
1 day ago
Arizona Diamondbacks' Daulton Varsho (12) celebrates his three-run home run against the Detroit Tig...
Arizona Sports

Watch: D-backs’ Daulton Varsho clears pool to cap 5-run inning vs. Tigers

D-backs CF Daulton Varsho sent a 435-foot blast at Chase Field to punctuate a five-run sixth inning Sunday against the Detroit Tigers. 
1 day ago
Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Dallas Keuchel throws a pitch against the Detroit Tigers duri...
Alex Weiner

D-backs LHP Dallas Keuchel limits damage during inefficient team debut

Dallas Keuchel took the hill at Chase Field for the first time as a member of the D-backs Sunday and provided 4.1 innings.
1 day ago
Dallas Keuchel #60 of the Chicago White Sox pitches during the first inning against the New York Ya...
Arizona Sports

D-backs select LHP Dallas Keuchel to big league roster, will start Sunday

The D-backs selected LHP Dallas Keuchel from the Rookie ACL D-backs and the former Cy Young winner will make his first start on Sunday. 
1 day ago
Detroit Tigers first baseman Spencer Torkelson fields a grounder by Arizona Diamondbacks' Josh Roja...
Arizona Sports

Former ASU star Spencer Torkelson ‘trusting the process’ in rookie season

Despite his struggles to start his MLB career, former Sun Devil Spencer Torkelson is positive he will be able to turn things around.
1 day ago
Detroit Tigers' Javier Baez (28) is caught stealing by Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Zach D...
Alex Weiner

D-backs drop 5th straight with loss to Tigers: ‘These are grinding times’

The Tigers took a 6-3 lead in the sixth inning Saturday night, and the D-backs never got the game-tying run to the plate.
2 days ago
Lessons from Tony La Russa’s commencement speech at Washington University