Willing His Way To The Top
Nov. 17, 2002
By Michael Leflar
Twenty-eight years have passed since Anaheim Angels' bench coach Joe Maddon called College Hill home, but his pride for the Leopards was evident right away.
"In my bio in the Angels' media guide it says that I attended Lafayette University," Maddon said. "Could you please tell our media relations department in Anaheim to change it to Lafayette College, because people are going to associate it with Lehigh University and that is something I do not want to happen."
The charismatic Maddon came to Lafayette from nearby Hazleton, enrolling in 1973 as a two-sport athlete, playing both football and baseball for the Leopards.
Although it was his play on the gridiron that brought the Lafayette coaching staff to Maddon's doorstep, he came to Lafayette with the hopes of making an impact on the baseball diamond.
"Lafayette always had a respected baseball program, and I wanted to be a part of that," Maddon said.
It did not take long for the wide-eyed freshman to make a choice between the two sports.
"From my first fall football practices I stood there amazed that the baseball team was practicing a few fields away," Maddon said. "I had never really experienced fall ball before and I thought it was such a great thing."
Contributing to Maddon's love for baseball was his belief that his five-foot, 11-inch frame would eventually catch up to him on the football field.
Although he continued to compete for the Leopards in both sports, the seeds of a dream to eventually compete in the Major Leagues were firmly planted inside Maddon.
"I was convinced that I was going to make it playing baseball," Maddon said. "There was no doubt in my mind that I was not going to be denied."
"Norm (Gigon) made me a catcher, and then he taught me so much about the position," Maddon said. "He was an infielder, yet he knew so much about catching and baseball."
Maddon credits Gigon with a lot of his instructional success. "Looking back, he was the best teacher I ever had and I found that out later on."
Maddon realized Gigon's genius when he was learning and teaching what his former manager taught him at the major league level.
"When I began playing in the minor leagues and even coaching and scouting I found that people were always re-emphasizing what he told me years prior at Lafayette," Maddon said.
While Maddon walked around College Hill with the quiet goal that he would someday have a hand in a World Series victory, he admittedly benefited as a person from the academic atmosphere at Lafayette.
"Lafayette really stretched me mentally and socially," Maddon said. "I am still gratefully associated with people that I played for and alongside, and I often see old friends when I am on the road, especially at Yankee Stadium."
After several unsuccessful attempts to gain invitation to the prestigious Cape Cod Summer League as a player at Lafayette, Maddon left College Hill for the minor leagues. After winning the 1975 National Baseball Congress championship as a member of the Boulder, Colorado baseball team, the Angels signed Maddon as a free agent to single-A affiliate Quad City.
"By no means did I think that the road was going to be glorious," Maddon said. "I was ready for a long struggle to make it in the majors. I think a lot of people have equal talent levels, but it is the will to succeed that helped me in the long run."
After a few years as a catcher in the Angels' farm system, Maddon switched careers and became a scout and manager.
"After a few years playing in the minor leagues, a scout came up to me and asked me flat out when I was going to quit playing and starting managing," Maddon said. "I was a little bit offended at first, but by then my body was beginning to wear down and I took up managing in the Angels' organization."
Maddon got his first job as a manager of the Angels' Pioneer League Single-A club in Idaho Falls in 1981. His new career was born, and Maddon's loyalty and dedication allowed the former Leopard to slowly claw his way up the managerial ladder.
After successful managerial stints in Single-A Salem and Peoria, and Double-A Midland, Maddon moved on to become the organization's roving hitting instructor and Minor League Field Coordinator, and then to Director of Player Development.
The call finally came on May 17, 1994 when Maddon was appointed bullpen coach for Major League Baseball's California Angles.
He has remained an integral part ever since, moving to first base coach and then bench coach, his current position.
As a bench coach, Maddon likened himself to the "Norton Anti-Virus."
"I have a myriad of jobs and I am responsible for surveying all areas of the team's play and fixing what is not working for us," Maddon said. "I have a hand in a majority of the decisions and preparation going into a game."
In his nine seasons on the Angels' major league staff, Maddon has served as an interim manager on three occasions, posting a 33-26 mark.
The biggest credit to his resume may be the fact that Maddon is the only coach that present-day Anaheim manager Mike Scioscia retained after taking over control of the club in 2001.
Maddon was rightfully paid the respect he deserves, and the Angels celebrated their first World Series title in 2002, something they could not have done without him.
He coached and scouted many of the unsung heroes on the 2002 World Champion Angels, and that cohesion went a long way in the postseason.
"Nothing can prepare you for that feeling," Maddon said. "It was like no time had passed from when I was just a kid dreaming about winning a game seven and actually being a part of it all."
Eventually, Maddon wants a skipper's job all to himself, and he remains patient because that along with unmatched perseverance is what brought him this far.
"I would love to manage and eventually become a general manager," Maddon confided. "The exposure from our World Series win and the postseason experience that I gained is necessary for me to get that kind of opportunity."
In the end, Maddon did not chase his dream as much as he chased it down with the relentless drive, unquestionable dedication and belief in himself that he honed at Lafayette. Maddon is grateful for his time spent at Lafayette, and College Hill is a better place for it.
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