WASHINGTON – Tony La Russa doesn't understand the minor backlash that's been created by his participation in radio personality Glenn Beck's rally in Washington on Saturday, an event the St. Louis Cardinals manager said was more religious in tone than political. Before Saturday night's game against the Washington Nationals, La Russa said complaints had been made to the Cardinals' offices in St. Louis about his participation in what some viewed as an event with political overtones.
La Russa added that the Walnut Creek, Calif., Animal Rescue Foundation he operates had received questions about the manager's presence at the rally.
Speaking from notes scribbled on the back of a lineup card, La Russa introduced Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols, who was given an award for his off-field charitable work at the rally.
Asked what he thought of the event, La Russa said: "It was beyond gratifying. I was inspired. There were a lot of things that inspired me. It was more religious, much more religious (than political). ... I'll raise money for those folks anytime. Albert got a legitimate award I was asked to introduce. I don't see the problem."
Nor does Pujols, who gladly uses his celebrity to help the less fortunate.
"God's given me some amazing talent, but I also think that it's my responsibility to give back to the community of St. Louis as well as to the Dominican Republic," Pujols said before Saturday's game at Nationals Park.
Pujols has established a foundation that helps people with Down syndrome and assist the poor in the Dominican Republic.
"I want to be able to give back," Pujols said.
Pujols also was confused as to why some observers thought he was participating in a political rally.
"I know a lot of people were thinking it was going to be a political thing or something like that. What I heard was ... everybody praising God for the amazing things done in their life, family and the soldiers," Pujols said.
During his introduction, La Russa said heroes often are seen as products of movies, television and fiction books, but there are real-life ones like Pujols. What makes Pujols so special, La Russa said, is his commitment to his family, faith and community.
La Russa said that because he wasn't representing the team at the event, there's no reason for Cardinals fans, donors to his animal rights charity or anyone else to be critical.
"If it was wrong for me to participate, then it's my mistake," he said. "I did it as a personal choice, and what can they say? I wasn't representing the Cardinals. They didn't co-sign it. They just, I think, respected my choice."