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Sports Legends Pack Steak 44 to Boost La Russa’s Pet Cause
By Mike Saucier
A parade of former, current and future stars paraded to Steak 44 to support a friend and his cause on Wednesday night – Tony La Russa and his Animal Rescue Foundation.
La Russa, the chief baseball analyst and advisor to the Arizona Diamondbacks, hosted a “Dinner of Champions” at the renowned steak restaurant in Phoenix, where players and coaches hit the red carpet before feasting on five-star cuisine inside. Among those pitching in for La Russa’s paws cause were Bruce Arians, Steve Keim, George Brett, Barry Larkin, Luis Gonzalez, Joe Carter, Robin Yount, Bob Melvin, Torey Lovullo, Mike Bercovici and C.J. Prosise.
“We’ve had a great mission – this is our 27th year – we’ve got a lot of innovative ideas but you’ve got to fund them,” La Russa said. “We need supporters and Steak 44 has jumped in there big time.”
La Russa, who led the Oakland A’s and St. Louis Cardinals to World Series titles, founded 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.
Jeff Mastro, one of the owners of Steak 44, praised La Russa’s organization and said he was thrilled La Russa considered having Steak 44 host the event. “It’s just terrific,” Mastro said. “It helps ARF raise a bunch of money for the great work they do. We’re just thrilled they’re all here and we just want to help this organization raise some money.”
“Anytime someone like Tony makes an ask you’re going to participate, or at least I am,” said Jerry Colangelo, the former Suns and Diamondbacks owner. “I know that this is a very important thing for him, it always has been. I think it’s important for all of us to support one another, people from the world of sports and I think for the most part you see that.”
Hall of Famer George Brett showed up to help his longtime pal. La Russa and Brett go back a long way. “I played against Tony in 1973,” Brett, the Kansas City Royals third-base legend said. “I was in Omaha. He was in Wichita. I played against him for years. We’ve developed a very good friendship and when he got inducted in the Hall of Fame it was a big thrill for him obviously but it was a also a big thrill for me. I have the chance to help him out and dogs. As a guy who has two dogs at home it’s kind of fun. I haven’t see my dogs in six weeks and I miss ’em.”
“Tony’s a Hall of Fame manager and I have a lot of respect for him,” said Hall of Fame Cincinnati Reds shortstop Barry Larkin. “I thought it was a great cause. I have dogs myself, I’m a pet lover so I decided to come out and support it.”
The Cardinals head coach, Bruce Arians, said La Russa has been supportive of his and Cardinals events. “To help him with his cause is just tremendous,” he said. “Everybody in the Valley of our stature needs to do these things for whatever cause they believe in.”
Steve Keim, general manager of the Cardinals, said La Russa, who he’s become good friends with over the last few years, has been supportive of him. “For a young GM like myself, regardless of what sport you’re in, to be able to tap into his knowledge and philosophy is something that I’ve tried to take advantage of the past few years and it’s been a lot of fun getting to know Tony and what his passions are in life.” Keim said the combination of supporting La Russa and having the event at Steak 44, his “favorite restaurant in town,” made attending the event an easy decision.
“Tony’s done a wonderful job with ARF,” said Diamondbacks World Series legend Luis Gonzalez. “He always reaches out to friends and who doesn’t want to be part of something Tony La Russa’s a part of? This is a very special charity to him.”