On his first day back in uniform in a decade, new Chicago White Sox manager Tony La Russa felt fortunate to be on the practice field after the team stuck by him despite an arrest for DUI in February 2020.
"I had already been beating myself up for the mistake without anyone knowing it," La Russa said Wednesday. "Once it became public, so soon after getting the job, when you understand the negative effect on fans, family and friends, that's torture. I don't enjoy torture."
La Russa hasn't managed since 2011 but indicated he couldn't pass up the opportunity to take over a playoff-caliber team. The White Sox went to the postseason in 2020 for the first time in 12 years and then improved the club in the offseason with several key acquisitions, including starter Lance Lynn and closer Liam Hendriks.
When La Russa's arrest in Arizona was first reported last November, only a day after the 76-year-old manager was hired, the White Sox drew negative headlines.
"Do I feel fortunate? Yes," said La Russa, the third-winningest skipper in MLB history. "I embrace the challenge mostly because I love the job and I'm excited about the potential of this team."
Despite the arrest going public, the White Sox never wavered in their support of La Russa. He was asked if he considered stepping down as the backlash to his hiring grew.
"[When] they decided they wanted to keep me, I haven't had the first thought that I should back off," La Russa said.
Despite the issues surrounding him this offseason, players have expressed a desire to learn from him, citing his experience as a three-time World Series-winning manager. After 10 years watching on the sidelines, La Russa was as excited as ever to be back on the field on Wednesday.
"The hairs on my neck were alive and kicking several times," he stated. "I love the game of baseball. I loved it even when I was a bad player.
"I was fortunate that they stood by me."
La Russa pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of reckless driving to resolve the misdemeanor drunken-driving charges. He was sentenced to one day of home detention, fined nearly $1,400 and is required to complete 20 hours of community service.