OAKLAND, Calif. -- Ron Washington was anxious to return to
his flood-ravaged New Orleans home this offseason and survey the
damage with his own eyes.
Even he wasn't prepared for what he saw: mold everywhere, ruined
furniture and belongings, all evidence of the 7 feet of water that
drenched his house during Hurricane Katrina nearly five months ago.
"There's lots of work to do, but I'm hanging in there," the
Oakland Athletics third-base coach said in a recent phone
interview. "It's not easy to describe, but it was nasty. I lost
everything. Everything that was in that house is gone. We're still
going through that process. Water can do some serious damage."
For now, Washington, his wife and his mother-in-law are living
in a modest apartment in the suburbs, about 15 minutes outside the
"There's not a big market out here for housing," Washington
said. "You don't find what you need, but you find what you can
handle and be comfortable in."
Washington and other family members spend most days working to
gut the house and rebuild it from scratch. The brick frame of his
home is about all that can be salvaged.
He makes daily trips to the store to search for everything from
new hot water heaters and washer and dryers to refrigerators and
electrical and plumbing supplies.
Washington, who interviewed for several managerial openings
after last season ended, figures it will take until just before the
start of spring training in 2007 for his house to be fully livable
Next month, Washington will report to Oakland's spring training
complex in Phoenix for the beginning of workouts, to begin grooming
another wave of young A's infielders just as he has in past years
with Miguel Tejada, Bobby Crosby, Mark Ellis and Eric Chavez.
He considers himself a teacher, and Washington is regularly at
the ballpark early during the season conducting fielding drills
with boys aspiring to reach the big leagues one day.
This winter, he has channeled all that energy into rebuilding.
"We've been trying to get comfortable and get our house
together," he said. "We've been gutting, and took everything out
of the house and took the walls down to the studs. We pulled up all
the carpet and flooring. The house is totally stripped."
After Katrina hit in late August, Washington's wife, Gerry, and
25 other family members got out and landed safely in an Alabama
shelter. Then they moved together into three temporary houses,
where they tried to establish some semblance of normalcy amid the
chaos in the Gulf Coast.
Washington briefly left the A's and spent three days in Alabama
to get his family settled and learn more about the damage.
For a while, he was the only one bringing in a steady paycheck
to support the entire family. The A's organization and its players
reached out to him with financial assistance, a gesture he greatly
appreciated. In addition, New York Yankees slugger Jason Giambi, a
former member of the A's who worked with Washington in the Oakland
farm system, gave $20,000 to Washington to help his family recover.
Washington cried when Giambi gave him the money.
From the beginning, Washington vowed to return to New Orleans
and rebuild -- and help clean up his city if possible, too.
He is also working on the home where his mother-in-law lives,
which he also owns.
"By the end of 2006 and before I leave again, I should finally
get it up to par," Washington said. "Even after you get it all
cleaned up, you have to find stuff to replace. I was hoping it
wasn't very bad, but I got shocked once I got home. Everyone was in
the same boat. Those who don't want to start over in New Orleans
lost everything and have nothing to come back to."
For him, that was never an option. New Orleans has always been
his home, and that won't change.
"I love my house. I love the area I'm in," he said. "A lot of
my neighbors are doing the same thing. I'm going to go for it and
see what happens."