Tony La Russa at the 2012 MLB All-Star Game red carpet parade.
The 2013 World Baseball Classic is underway and at least one new face will be working the circuit this year.
Having spent more than three decades as a major league manager, he felt it was time to hang up his cap and trade it in for a suit.
In 2012, La Russa was named as a Special Assistant to MLB Commissioner Bud Selig. While he wasn’t sure what that would entail at the time, La Russa has learned a lot about the business end of baseball in the last year.
“I’ve really been impressed by how many different pieces Major League Baseball has working,” La Russa told Bleacher Report from Phoenix, Ariz. on Tuesday afternoon. “They’ve got a lot of different departments and ways that they’re trying to bring the game out to people. So far it’s been very successful.”
The World Baseball Classic is a prime example. While the event is governed by the International Baseball Federation (IBAF), MLB played an active role in its creation and management. When the International Olympic Committee in 2005 decided to remove baseball, those involved in the sport knew that global outreach was still going to be the future of baseball.
So they took it into their own hands.
”I think 10 years ago the commissioner really began to globalize baseball and it’s had a tremendous impact,” La Russa said. “We’re just now beginning to see it.”
He said the way that shift is most visible is in the excitement among the teams to show off their country’s best players.
This is the third rendition of the WBC and you can see the different countries are really excited about displaying their talent to other countries of the world. While it has taken some time to bring excitement to the event, particularly in the United States, La Russa said he expects 2013 to be a big year for baseball’s only worldwide showcase.
“You’re playing for your country and I think we’re seeing it become more and more competitive,” La Russa said. “The more competitive it is, the more entertaining it will be.”
The 2013 World Baseball Classic is the first for La Russa, who was quick to remind that he was working during the spring in 2006 and 2009. The timing of the event, while awkward for American players, is something he doesn’t see changing anytime soon.
“The fact that it happened during spring training is one of the hurdles that we had to get over because a lot of the major leaguers weren’t as ready to play,” La Russa said. “But, they got some extra work this year, so they should be here ready to play.”
This year, La Russa’s role at the World Baseball Classic is quite simple—watch baseball. He won’t be watching it like the average fan watches a game, though.
La Russa will be looking at how rules and other facets of the game affect play. In short, he’ll share the knowledge of a man who has spent a full half-century on or around a baseball diamond.
That experience plays a huge role in the everyday operation of his position with MLB.
“The big difference is that MLB looks at the good of the overall game,” La Russa said. "There’s a lot going on. You’re concerned about the health of the game and what’s good for baseball as opposed to just trying to win your game with your team.”
While winning may not be the primary function of his job, La Russa acknowledged that his goal is to do his best at whatever he is doing. His 2,728 career wins as a manager tell the same story.