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A Coach Who Cares

Dodgers' Jauss has been around sports all his life as the son of a writer, but nothing is more important than what he and his wife have done as foster parents to three babies born addicted to heroin

September 13, 2006|Ross Newhan | Special to The Times

The bench coach of the Dodgers -- Grady Little's top lieutenant in game preparation and strategy -- never played professionally, which is often an impediment to advancement in a small and skeptical fraternity.

Then again, Dave Jauss had showed his stuff from the start, overcoming the (tongue in cheek here) potential genetic impediment of being a sportswriter's son.

To keep company and pace with his dad, the respected and now retired Bill Jauss of the Chicago Tribune, the young Jauss often toted his father's typewriter and rode the Midwest rails with him.

"I probably saw more Notre Dame football games before I was 16 than Ara Parseghian's kids," Jauss said, referring to the former Irish coach. "It was a great time. I was the envy of every kid on the block."

Yet, for all of the clubhouse doors his dad opened for him, for all of the renown the elder Jauss achieved from print and TV exposure, the ink stains didn't prove invasive.

Neither did the athletic limitations prove ... well, limiting.

As a small point guard and good-field, no-hit shortstop who usually batted ninth at Amherst College in Massachusetts, Jauss envisioned a career of teaching and coaching while earning a bachelor's degree in psychology and a master's degree in sports management.

He began that dual role at Division III Westfield (Mass.) State College. In time, he coached, managed or scouted at virtually every baseball level, getting a major tutorial and career boost from Felipe Alou, and ultimately received a World Series ring for his advance scouting work with the Boston Red Sox in 2004.

Now 49 and at Little's side in a largely anonymous but key role as the Dodgers continue their bid for a division title, Jauss has engineered a productive and rewarding odyssey -- both denizen of the dugout and citizen of the community.

He is the father of three boys -- D.J., 16, Charley, 14, and Will, 10 -- and also in recent years a foster parent to three babies born with heroin addiction. He and Billie, his wife of 18 years, have responded to what they believe is their calling, providing a "safe and stable haven" for infants who had no vote in whom they were born to or in what condition they were born.

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Amid the bright lights, big salaries and catered atmosphere of a baseball life, Billie Jauss said from their Boston home, "it is easy to become spoiled and lose focus. It is easy to forget how blessed we are and how many others are less fortunate."

She is a certified nurse who had always tried to help at medical missions or community projects when Dave managed in Venezuela and the Dominican Republic.

She was reminded, while listening to a sermon by her Boston pastor in 2002, that there is always a "need to reach out in our own backyard" and it was while watching a subsequent television show on foster children that she realized that the concept had already "grasped my heart."

Dave and Billie Jauss took classes to become certified as foster parents and received their first baby on Jan. 2, 2003. In most cases, according to Billie Jauss, the newborns are medically weaned from the heroin while in the hospital in the first seven to 10 days before being given to the foster family but are likely to suffer neurological delays similar to some premature babies.

The Jausses have fostered two girls and a boy, the periods ranging from six to 10 months, and each has been adopted. They have remained in touch through holiday and birthday gifts, phone calls and even baby-sitting.

Friends tell them they could never serve as a foster parent because it would be too difficult giving up the baby.

"I'm not saying there isn't attachment," Billie Jauss said, "but there is a greater purpose."

In the empty dugout at Dodger Stadium, several hours before a recent game, Dave Jauss said, "We believe this is our calling, part of God's plan. When you see the families with their new babies, there's no selfish feeling of loss on our part, only gain for them. We're blessed with three great kids. Not everyone has that blessing."

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The Jausses received their first baby during the three-year period Dave was scouting for the Red Sox. He also has been a coach, manager, minor league field coordinator and player development director, working in the Montreal and Boston organizations after being lured from his budding career as a college coach.

Along the way from Caracas to California, he has learned from Kevin Kennedy, Phil Regan, Jimy Williams, Jim Fregosi, Whitey Lockman and others. He coached with Little in Boston and for Alou, the godfather of his oldest son, in Montreal.

The ring and resume dispel any potential clubhouse bias against uniformed personnel who didn't play professionally or at the major league level.

"I may have felt some of that when I first coached at the major league level," Jauss said, "but not now.

"We all bring different experiences and qualities, there's no book, and the game is the same at every level."

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