“We play the liberal arts style of baseball,” said Joe Maddon ’76, manager of the Tampa Bay Rays. “We do a little bit of everything right. It’s the effort and grinding that makes the team successful. That’s our style and that’s how we win.”
He made these comments on the occasion of being awarded an honorary doctor of letters degree from Lafayette College Sept. 2 in Pfenning Alumni Center.
Maddon expressed deep appreciation for the degree, which he said he will hang prominently in his office at Tropicana Field along with other Lafayette items such as his college baseball jersey, a 1973 team photo, and other Lafayette shirts. “It will go with me always,” he said.
President Daniel H. Weiss and Board Chair Edward W. Ahart ’69 presented the degree on behalf of the College and the Board of Trustees. “One of the qualities we celebrate at Lafayette is that it is a place of opportunity,” said Weiss. “Joe seized an opportunity to pursue his passion, which became a career. Lafayette is proud of your accomplishments.”
“Coach [Joe] Sarra was instrumental in my coming to Lafayette,” said Maddon during an earlier lecture to about 250 members of the campus community in Colton Chapel. “I had opportunities to go other places, but there was something about Lafayette that drew me here. I am so proud to say that I went to Lafayette College.” Sarra was an assistant football coach at Lafayette at that time.
“I get to stay in touch with Lafayette friends,” he continued. “It is a wonderful community to be connected to. A large group of alumni comes out to the games in Florida and in Oakland; the tentacles of Lafayette reach throughout the country.”
Maddon, who is known for his quiet, strategic leadership style, described some of the philosophy behind his tactics. “You have to be involved in the process, stay in the present,” he said. “If you think about the outcome, you miss things. It’s so easy to get caught up in the past in a negative way.”
He explained the slogan “fortune favors the bold,” saying that you have to take chances and do things differently because if you don’t “you just become like everyone else.” And finally, he mentioned the slogan “WIN,” which stands for “what’s important now.”
Maddon said it is important to keep a clear mind and to have routines, but you also have to break routines now and then and do something fun. “Sometimes I walk into the dugout and the players are chirping like birds on a wire. I love it. It’s a good sign.”
Manager since 2005, Maddon led the Rays to their first season with a winning record in 2008, when they took their first division title and proceeded to win the pennant. That phenomenal year completed a full-circle turnaround for the Rays, who had the worst record in Major League Baseball in 2007.
Maddon was inducted into the Maroon Club Hall of Fame last November.
A native of Hazleton, Pa., Maddon majored in economics at Lafayette, where he played baseball and football. He left early to sign as a free agent catcher with the Anaheim Angels in 1975. He played for Class A affiliates in Quad Cities (1976), Salinas (1977-78), and Santa Clara before switching to scouting and managing. He batted .267 with five home runs in his minor league career.