La Russa will be JUCO speaker

Former Cardinals and Athletics manager Tony La Russa will be the speaker this year for the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series banquet.

Jamie Hamilton still has too much on his plate to relax, but he can breathe a little easier now.

The chairman of the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series has secured Tony La Russa to speak at the 2014 JUCO banquet.

The three-time World Series champion manager — once with Oakland and twice with St. Louis — will headline the banquet May 23 at Two Rivers Convention Center. Tickets are $40 and go on sale in April.

Hamilton got an assist from Jeff Bridich, the senior director of player development for the Colorado Rockies, in the search for a speaker.

During one of Bridich’s trips to check on the Grand Junction Rockies this past summer, he met with Hamilton.

“It was one of those things, they’re so pleased with what the partnership has been here with (JUCO and) the GJ Rockies, and he said, ‘There’s got to be something I can do for you,’ ” Hamilton said. “I said, ‘Yeah, there is. Our biggest dilemma every year is getting a big name to speak at the banquet.’

“We’ve had big names, but now with the business of speaking and the dollars that are there, and our limited budget, it’s not easy.”

Bridich contacted Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig’s office, then told Hamilton to give La Russa a call.

La Russa not only agreed to speak, he waived his speaking fee. In return, JUCO will make a donation to Tony La Russa’s Animal Rescue Foundation, which La Russa and his wife, Elaine, started in 1991.

The foundation rescues animals that have run out of time at public shelters and pairs them with new owners.

Three days after La Russa guided the St. Louis Cardinals to the franchise’s 11th World Series championship in 2011, he retired from managing. He managed 16 years with the Cardinals and is third on MLB’s all-time managerial wins list with 2,728.

When he retired, he was second in number of games managed (5,097), and his 33 years as a big-league manager is tied for second with John McGraw.

The Cardinals also won the 2006 World Series under La Russa, who in 1989 took the Oakland A’s to the title during the Bay Bridge series, which was interrupted by an earthquake.

His clubs won league championships in 1988, ‘89 and ‘90 (Oakland) and 2004, 2006 and 2011 (St. Louis).

La Russa now works on special assignments for Selig and just finished attending the World Series between St. Louis and Boston.

Hamilton said members of JUCO’s executive committee were excited to hear he landed La Russa to speak, and he said junior college baseball coaches will use La Russa’s reputation to encourage their teams to be one of the final 10 teams this coming spring.

“A few of the people I’ve spoken to in the internal group were like, ‘Wow, this is what we’re looking for,’ ” Hamilton said. “We’ve had great names, but you look at his career and what he’s done and what the St. Louis Cardinals continue to do, the ownership group and the legacy there, I’m excited about it.”

With JUCO’s commitment to pay for the Lincoln Park Tower project, Hamilton said meeting the price of big-name speakers isn’t possible for the nonprofit committee.

The Grand Junction Visitor and Convention Bureau helps defray the cost, and Hamilton said JUCO’s reputation has helped entice speakers.

“Now,” Hamilton said, “it’s a function of making sure Two Rivers has enough silverware to get everybody fed that night.”


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