Coach pledges to help rebuild New Orleans

Updated: September 9, 2005, 9:05 PM ET
Associated Press

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Ron Washington's two homes in New Orleans are under water, destroyed by flooding from Hurricane Katrina. But that's not enough to make Washington abandon his hometown.

Red Cross

The Oakland Athletics' third-base coach rejoined the team on Friday for a weekend series against the Texas Rangers. He spent the three previous days in a shelter and in temporary housing in Alabama with his wife, Gerry, and 26 other family members who evacuated New Orleans a day before the hurricane struck the Gulf Coast.

"I'm glad to be back," Washington said. "Baseball's always been my life. But it was a humbling experience. I wouldn't wish staying in a shelter on anyone."

Washington vows that when the A's end their season, he will be involved in efforts to rebuild New Orleans, and he disagrees with those who say that parts of the city should be razed and relocated to higher ground.

"That's easy for politicians to say -- bulldoze it because it's not their home," Washington said. "If they decide to bring New Orleans back, I want to be a part of it. That's the only place I've ever known as home. I've never thought about living anyplace else.

"Now if they decide that New Orleans is not salvageable, then I have to look someplace else. But it's my home and I want to go back and do as much as I can to help it come back."

No family members were injured by the storm, but Washington said most of their possessions were lost.

His niece had been employed by a mortgage company in New Orleans, which arranged for the extended family to move into three houses in Alabama, where they can live rent-free for three months.

Washington said that when the season is over, he'll go to Alabama and bring his wife and family back to Louisiana, as close to New Orleans as possible.

"All your personal stuff is gone, but they're living and that's what's most important," said Washington, who played in the majors for all or parts of 10 seasons and has been an A's coach for 10 years. "I'm not going to rely on anybody to do anything for me. I'm going to do what I've always done, take care of business."

Some of Washington's relatives already have found employment in Alabama, and some have indicated they might stay.

"They're not the kind of people who are going to sit around and take charity," Washington said. "The people in the community ... took a liking to them so they all have jobs. But when the season is over, I'm going to get my wife and whoever wants to come back and get close to New Orleans when they do allow us to come back in there."

Washington thanked the A's, fans and Major League Baseball for their charitable efforts.

"The Oakland A's family has been good to my family," Washington said. "Fans have reached out and tried to help. Ballplayers have reached out to help. I'm overwhelmed by the love and caring that everyone's showing. I'll be glad when we can get back to New Orleans being New Orleans."

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press