Former Braves coach Ron Washington shares departing message to his players in Atlanta

Braves second baseman Ozzie Albies (left) and third base coach Ron Washington chat before their game against the New York Yankees at Truist Park, Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2023, in Atlanta. (Hyosub Shin/hshin@ajc.com)

Credit: Hyosub Shin/hshin@ajc.com

Credit: Hyosub Shin/hshin@ajc.com

Braves second baseman Ozzie Albies (left) and third base coach Ron Washington chat before their game against the New York Yankees at Truist Park, Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2023, in Atlanta. (Hyosub Shin/hshin@ajc.com)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Upon departing Atlanta to be the Angels’ manager, Ron Washington spoke to Ozzie Albies and the rest of his infielders, one at a time. He shared a common message.

“One guy don’t run any show,” Washington said. “I don’t care how good he is. One guy can’t do it.”

His point?

“OK, I’m gone, but the winner in those guys is still there,” Washington said. “That’s why you teach and you help people to be self-sufficient, and you never stop teaching them so they can be self-sufficient. The umbilical cord has been cut. Now, all of the wisdom and all the time we spent together, they have to use it on each other and not let anybody come there and uproot their winning ways. Not let anyone come up in there and change the work ethic and the preparation that it took for them to sustain the way they’ve sustained in the last seven or eight years.

“That’s the type of conversations we had, and I was on the other end trying to make them understand. They don’t need me. I’m here available if they have questions, but they know how to win. And they don’t let one person stop them from being what they are and who they are, just like one person cannot control the game of baseball. It will continue to move no matter who it is.”

On Monday at the Winter Meetings in Nashville, Washington held court – as the Angels manager. He was asked about Shohei Ohtani. He talked about speaking with the team’s leaders. He discussed his approach to managing, his new division and much more.

But he is still beloved in Atlanta.

In seven seasons, he made such an impact as a third base coach – and infield coach – that he left a legacy. There’s no one else like him.

The Braves will fill his spot, but they will not replace him.

Asked what he hopes to be remembered for in Atlanta, Washington said: “That I made a difference. That’s all. That I made a difference. Every single day that I was there I made a difference. I didn’t cheat anyone every single day that I was there, and I didn’t let the players that I was around cheat each other every day that I was there. So that’s what I want them to remember me by. I made a difference. I made a difference. It was the players that did it, but I made a difference.”

Ron Washington and his trademark smile during 2023 spring training.

Credit: Hyosub Shin/hshin@ajc.com

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Credit: Hyosub Shin/hshin@ajc.com

All along, Washington sought the opportunity to manage again. He had managed Texas from 2007 to 2014, a run that included back-to-back World Series appearances in 2010 and 2011. He went 664-611.

In 2014, Washington resigned from his job as Rangers manager. He cited being unfaithful to his wife as the reason.

His next move is one that defined him: He stayed in the game.

He coached for the Athletics from May 2015 through the 2016 season. He could’ve left the game, but he continued working in it.

This leads into his advice for anyone in baseball hoping for their opportunity one day.

“Stay relevant,” Washington said. “Just because you may have lost a job, find you another one. The thing about baseball, you gotta be inside to get any opportunity. You can’t be on the outside looking in trying to get an opportunity. And when I left my job in Texas, I stayed inside. I didn’t have pride to the point or an ego to the point where because I just finished managing, I can’t make a difference in the game of baseball. I’ve been making a difference in baseball all my life. So when the time came that I had left Texas, I just wanted to stay in the game. And I would’ve taken any job to stay in the game. And I did. So here I am with another opportunity to manage. And if I could say to anyone: Stay relevant and keep making a difference.”

In Atlanta, Washington worked with Albies, Dansby Swanson, Freddie Freeman, Austin Riley, Matt Olson and others. He said he talked to five or six of his infielders when he took the Angels job, including Swanson and Freeman. “They’re still in my heart, and I’m still in their heart,” Washington said. He built real relationships.

Washington said he’ll remember Atlanta for the success the Braves have experienced. He cited the commitment from the players and the organization.

With the Braves, Washington said he continued to “adjust and readjust.”

“The game of baseball is the game of baseball,” Washington said. “Winning is something that I’ve been a part of all my life. So all I was trying to do was stay relevant and make a difference. I know how to win. I knew how to win when I arrived in Atlanta. I didn’t go into Atlanta and all of the sudden, I became a winner. And that’s the attitude I keep, and that’s the attitude I pass on. I had some super talent there to work with, I had some young men to work with when they were 19, 20, 21 years old. They were so respectful, and they already had work ethic. I just took the work ethic they had and just kind of nurtured it and tried to keep them understanding that they can go to another level, and that was ongoing every single day. But those kids, they were winners when I got there.

“We just had to help them mold themselves and find out what their capabilities are, and stay within those capabilities until they grew to become what they are right now. And that’s what I’m trying to get done here in Anaheim, is keep these kids grinding so they can learn who they are and they can go out there every day and be that person, and let the education and experience they gain all of the sudden catch up. Because there’s a lot of them without a whole of experience. And experience will catch up if you stay in the game.”

The Braves’ players will miss Washington. He will miss them.

But everyone understood this – the opportunity to manage again – is what Washington always wanted.

“They’re happy for me, and I told them that I am happy for them,” Washington said. “Now, the cord has been cut. Now you gotta take all of that that we experienced in the last seven to eight years and keep it. Because they are winners. They got winning in them.”

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