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La Russa’s Paws Cause Helps Those Who Need a Furry Friend’s Unconditional Love
By Mike Saucier
For Tony La Russa, helping animals is far more than a “pet” cause.
La Russa and his wife Elaine have long shared a passion for companion animals.
The Hall of Fame manager who led the Oakland A’s and St. Louis Cardinals to World Series titles did not have a pet while growing up, due in part to his mother having a traumatic incident with a cat. But he has more than made up for that lost time around animals by founding Animal Rescue Foundation (which boasts one of the best nonprofit acronyms you’ll find – ARF), that saves dogs and cats who have run out of time at public shelters and pairs them with someone in need of a companion.
Now in the role as chief baseball analyst and advisor to the Arizona Diamondbacks, La Russa has a great opportunity to raise money for ARF by virtue of being in a place where former and current baseball stars are gathered for Cactus League baseball. So at 6:30 p.m. on March 22 at Steak 44 in Phoenix he will host a “Dinner of Champions” at which guests will feast on five-star cuisine while rubbing elbows with Major League Baseball celebrities and NFL friends and coaches.
Among those pitching in for paws are Mark McGwire, Albert Pujols, Luis Gonzalez, Robin Yount, Bob Melvin, Bruce Arians and Steve Keim.
La Russa said he and his wife are “overwhelmed by the generosity” shown by Steak 44 owners Jeff, Dennis and Michael Mastro and Scott Troilo. “It’s as hot a restaurant as there is in the Valley,” he said. “It’s going to be a really fun, social night and the restaurant is just going to be spectacular.”
Early on in their marriage, La Russa was inspired by his wife Elaine’s love for animals. The couple was moved to rescue animals by, oddly, an incident during a baseball game. A stray cat ran onto the field during an Oakland A’s game in 1990. The incident brought to their attention the plight of homeless animals and the lack of no-kill shelters in Contra Costa County, California. That led them to co-found ARF the next year.
“As long we have been together and since we had our two daughters we both shared this passion for companion animals,” La Russa said, “especially once we became aware how these really wonderful pets – dogs, cats, puppies, kittens – were being euthanized.”
Their adult daughters, Bianca and Devon, are ARF volunteers.
ARF, according to the website “strives to create a world where every loving dog and cat has a home, where every lonely person has a companion animal, and where children learn to care.”
La Russa loves what pets add to a family. “They’re true companions, with unconditional love,” he told Frontdoors. “Every time they see you their tails are wagging. They improve the quality of your life. There’s nothing quite like them.”
La Russa said that the Animal Rescue Foundation began to focus more on the “effects that these animals could have on people who had legitimate needs” such as seniors away from their families, abused children or those in hospitals. Five years ago the foundation started placing rescued dogs with veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
“That unconditional love becomes almost magical in the effect it has on people with those needs,” he said. “There’s no medicine, there’s no machines. Just that wagging tail. So we do a lot of programs to make those matches happen. It’s recognizing how unique unconditional love is in life.”