Insight News

Dec 17th

“Uncle Ron” Washington rises to the top

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ronwashingtonThree African-American men have managed a team in the World Series. Ron Washington, the most recent of the three (including Cito Gaston and Dusty Baker), is leading the Texas Rangers through the big show, and for everyone’s viewing pleasure, he’s taking a few familiar spirits with him: the spirits of imperfection, honesty and hard, diligent work.

From the first moment that the Insight News primary target market saw, or sees, Ron Washington on their HD television screens, they may have to do a double-take to make sure that Washington is not their long lost relative. If Washington doesn’t look like everyone’s favorite “Uncle Ron” while he stands there in the dugout flipping sunflower seeds off of his lips, then collard greens ain’t good. You can feel a genuine feeling jumping off of the screen when watching Washington, and his players confirm that observation in what they have to say about him.

Trust, respect, aggressive, and fundamental are the words that come from Washington’s players and fellow coaches, with regard to his treatment of them, as well as his coaching style. “I just let them go,” says Washington. As a matter of fact, the Ron Washington original Black-English statement, “That’s the way baseball go” has been turned into a fan and media slogan for t-shirts and such. Now who doesn’t want to play for the cool Brotha that sports lean, tinted specs, a seventies Shaft-style mustache, coolly flips sunflower seeds while strategizing through the game, and says, “That’s the way baseball go”? That may not sound like one of your uncles, but it sounds like a few of mine.

It’s ideal that Washington is the leader of this Rangers team, as the team is built of several players considered troublesome by other outfits. None of the redeemed stars of the Rangers is more celebrated than their best player Josh Hamilton. Hamilton is a recovering alcoholic and drug abuser. During the American League Championship Series in which the Rangers defeated the much disfavored (in Minnesota) New York Yankees, Hamilton was selected MVP, and his teammates held an initial locker room celebration in which they showered ginger ale rather than the traditional champagne, in his honor (of course they broke out the “loose juice” later on, but it’s the thought that counts). I’m always good to insert a movie quote that fits (a girl told me that only dudes do that…call me a dude), and in this case “Attitude reflects leadership,” from the movie ‘Remember the Titans’, fits like a hush puppy. It takes the “cool uncle” type of leadership that Washington provides to engender that type of considerate team attitude.

Washington’s attitude comes from a genuine place. It is likely that in viewing the World Series we will not only hear about Hamilton’s former drug abuse, but about the honest admission from Washington of having used cocaine during the 2009 season. Uncle Ron isn’t perfect, but he sure is honest and genuine, and the management of the Rangers couldn’t get around the feelings that Washington’s better angels promote. During a period in sports and society where there is all too much tidal wave-like pouncing upon the occasional slips of imperfect human words and actions, the Rangers did the right thing with regard to Washington’s admission, and are reaping the righteous – not self-righteous – rewards.

As far as Washington’s in-game abilities to manage, he has brought the attitude of doing the right thing on the field to a team that historically has embraced the “everything is big in Texas” attitude of the team’s history. Washington brought the mind frame and flexibility of “small ball” to the Rangers, and combined it with their build for powerful pitching and big home runs. “Whatever the game asks you to do, that’s Rangers baseball,” said Washington.

The result of Washington’s all around management approach is the Texas Rangers’ first birth into the World Series. It certainly could be that Washington gained strong influence of his approach to management during the longest stop of his playing career. Naturally, that stretch of time was with the Minnesota Twins, from 1981-1986. And with his warm, “keep it real” nature, it’s no wonder Washington originally hails from New Orleans. I keep telling you all that there’s something in the (Mississippi) water. Here’s to “Uncle Ron”.

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