Tony La Russa reached the top of his profession this week, which is saying something given the rich history of talent that has grown out of the baseball fields of Tampa.
La Russa was elected in a unanimous vote to membership in baseball's Hall of Fame. After a 33-year managing career and three World Series wins, the 69-year-old Tampa native goes into the history books as the third-most winning manager of all time. This achievement for the son of an Ybor City milkman speaks to the grit and fierce determination La Russa showed over the decades, first as kid on the ball fields of Cuscaden and MacFarlane parks and later as a professional player and manager. He won a World Series as manager of the Oakland Athletics and two with the St. Louis Cardinals, retiring in 2011 with 2,728 wins.
La Russa should be proud of his place in history and of being but the latest neighborhood son to make a lasting contribution to professional baseball. He joins fellow natives Al Lopez and Lou Piniella, and Wade Boggs, who grew up in Tampa, as players who shaped the big leagues by following a dream that began on local ball fields. Their accomplishments should inspire children to believe that anything's possible, that hard work means something and that talent is earned and not handed out.