Few people get to engage in a cause that resonates so deeply with their convictions. Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington will get to honor his profession and his hometown in one fell swoop on Monday, when he hosts a golf tournament designed to benefit the Urban Youth Academy in New Orleans.
Washington will host the second annual Celebrity Golf Classic at English Turn Golf and Country Club in New Orleans on Monday, and he'll bring a group of people with similar roots and like-minded goals.
Washington will be joined by former Mets outfielder Ron Swoboda and two members of his coaching staff in Texas -- pitching coach Mike Maddux and assistant hitting coach Bobby Jones -- in addition to a contingent from the New Orleans Saints and a few local-born Major League players.
All proceeds of the golf tourney will benefit the Urban Youth Academy, which opened in November 2012 on the site of storm-ravaged Wesley Barrow Stadium. The academy now services more than 900 youths, and Washington is convinced that it will impact an entire generation of New Orleans residents.
"This academy is a blessing for this city and for this community simply because it gives us an opportunity to help kids learn what life expects from them," said Washington. "It gives them a chance to come someplace and to learn and understand camaraderie, discipline and accountability. It's just something that's been missing in the community, and I'm just very happy to be a part of it."
Washington, a former big league infielder and a winner of two American League pennants as a manager, graduated from John McDonogh Senior High School in New Orleans. The 61-year-old grew up with dreams of making a mark in baseball, and he credited his hometown for helping to make it to happen.
Now, Washington is in a place in his career where he can give back to his community.
"You never forget about where you come from, and that's something I've certainly never forgotten," he said. "All I've ever done in this city was play baseball, and this city helped me reach where I am today. It gave me an opportunity to do what I'd always loved to do. That's what we're trying to do, give back to these young kids. They can see that it's something they may want to have a part in their life. And even if they don't become a baseball player, it gives them a chance to see what friendship is about."
Indeed, the Urban Youth Academy affords the local youth a chance for free baseball instruction, but the staff at the facility also stresses the value of education. Some of the students come out to the academy four times a week, and Washington said that structure can only be good for them.
"There's always been a love of baseball in this city, but now they have a facility that's under control and has great instructors. Major League Baseball is a big part of it," he said. "Without Major League Baseball, we wouldn't be sitting here with these opportunities for these young kids, and that's what life is all about. Trying to give kids opportunities, and making them believe that whatever in life they decide they want to be, they can do it if they put in the time. Teaching them that it's a process."
Washington said that he grasped many of those life lessons from his parents and from baseball, and he said that he wants to try to impart them to as many kids as he can find that are willing to listen.
It would've been hard for young Washington to imagine a future in which he hosted a celebrity golf tournament, but when it comes to inspiring the local youth, he can share a story that sounds familiar.
"I don't think that was on my mind at the time," said Washington, recalling his own childhood spent in New Orleans. "I was a young kid, just trying to play baseball and doing everything I could do to stay out of trouble. Baseball was my outlet. I felt like I was a good student in school, and because I was a good student in school, my mom and dad didn't stop me from following my dream. And my dream was baseball. It's certainly helped me to construct my life and to build my character."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less