Monday, May 19, 2014

Five Things We Learned from Tony La Russa's Commencement Address at Washington U.

Posted By on Mon, May 19, 2014 at 8:45 AM

"You guys dug it out and played .500 ball." - @CARDINALS | TWITTER
  • @Cardinals | Twitter
  • "You guys dug it out and played .500 ball."

Former Cardinals manager Tony La Russa doesn't just inspire greatness on the field -- he also inspires greatness in life. Last Friday, La Russa gave the commencement address at Washington University in St. Louis, bidding thousands of students good luck as they go from the minors to the big leagues.

If anyone knows about playing a hard nine to earn respect, it's La Russa. From mediocre player to outstanding manager to a place in the National Baseball Hall of Fame, the former Cardinals skipper has attacked baseball with the mind of a chess player over the years, and it paid off with multiple World Series titles, National League pennants and Manager of the Year awards.

But the advice La Russa offered Friday applies to more than just college graduates or baseball players. Below, check out La Russa's five best nuggets of wisdom that will help anybody grind out a couple of wins and become a "plus" player in the game of life.

See also: - Tony La Russa, Former Cardinals Manager, Unanimously Voted into Baseball Hall of Fame - 6 Photos of Tony La Russa Cuddling with Puppies That Will Make You Happy Forever

1. A love of reading brings adventure.

La Russa told the graduates that early in his life, his parents instilled in him an adoration for the written word that continues today. And upon meeting a best-selling fiction writer, La Russa learned this:

"He explained to me that in his books, that have been so successful, he concentrated most on the first sentence in the first paragraph and everything flowed from there."

La Russa used that anecdote as the kickoff to his speech, which was assembled with that author's advice in mind. The ensuing address was filled with reflection, stories and a few curveballs, just like many of La Russa's baseball games.

Lesson: Reading Rainbow was right.


Sports are neat and all, but education is way cooler. That's why when La Russa was looking out at Wash. U.'s 3,000-odd graduates, he said this:

I look at this scene and it's overwhelming, the environment here. You know from my background, I never thought I would say that something is more impressive than opening day with the Cardinals.

But this is.

La Russa went on to say that though people put great meaning on sports and entertainment, education is what's "real." After calling Washington University one of the finest schools in the country, he told the crowd, "The importance of what you accomplish with your graduation and what you have going forward is more important than a baseball season." Over the years, La Russa has followed his own advice, earning his law degree as his days as a player came to an end.

Lesson: Don't count on your pitching arm or home-run swing to set you up for life.

Three more life-changing lessons on the next page! Continue to page two to see if LaRussa bats the pitcher eighth.

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