First thingsfirst: What's up with the glasses? Aside from Who's going to be your closer?it's the question that Maddon--who wears thick black retro specs--gets the mostnow that he's the manager of the Devil Rays and more people are payingattention to him. "My girlfriend [Jaye Sousoures] picked them out,"says Maddon, 51, the Angels' bench coach from 1996 through last season."She wanted me to go unconventional. I got no support from anyone in theAngels' locker room when I first wore them last year. Really, no one likesthem. But I do."
His taste ineyewear isn't the only thing that distinguishes Maddon from other big leaguemanagers. A graduate of Lafayette with a degree in economics, the native ofHazleton, Pa., listens to the Goo Goo Dolls and Coldplay on his iPod, is ascomputer-savvy as a teenager and is a voracious reader of best sellers.Divorced with two children from his previous marriage (Sarah, 22, and Joey,20), Maddon has been dating Sousoures, who owns a business consulting firm andgoes to law school at night, for about 2 1/2 years.
As a minor leaguecoach in the Angels' system in the early 1990s, Maddon lugged a 10-pound laptopeverywhere he went. "I used to get a lot of crap for that, more than I'vegotten about the glasses--it was like I had three heads," says Maddon, whowas among the first coaches to use a computer. "I used to tell people thatthere's going to come a day when just about everyone in baseball usesone."
Maddon's hiringin November injected new life into a moribund franchise. He replaces the fieryturned bitter Lou Piniella, who resigned after three straight 90-loss seasons,and it's hard to imagine two skippers who are more different. "It used tobe a jungle here--you were always looking over your shoulder, worried that youdid something wrong," says leftfielder Carl Crawford, 24, who batted .301last year. "Now it's a more relaxed environment, which is a good thing fora young team."
April 2, 2006
Maddon, whoseteam is the fourth youngest in the majors (average age: 26.6), quickly set thenew tone. At one workout he wore a Mexico team jersey from the World BaseballClassic (a nod to second baseman Jorge Cantu, one of Tampa Bay's twoparticipants in the event); he served beer, chips and salsa during his dailymedia sessions; and he gave the front office the green light for a Joe MaddonRetro Glasses giveaway on April 3 at Tropicana Field. "I want this place tobe loud, raucous and a blast when we're off the field," he says."There's enough pressure that these guys face out there."
What Maddon facesis one of the most difficult challenges in baseball: He has to turn a team thathas never won more than 70 games into a winner while competing in the AL East,the majors' best division. But with the Devil Rays armed with the best youngtalent they've ever had, Maddon may be the right man at the right time. "Idon't know what it was like in the past here, but there's no doubt that we havethe players to turn this thing around," he says. "I'm veryoptimistic."
For the firsttime in a while, so are the Devil Rays.