Maddon’s “Thanks-mas ” 2008 Celebration
I was sitting here today at the computer in the house with the outside temps hitting the mid 40’s for the first time this season and thought I forgot something this year. It took me a short while, but I remembered that I did not write about the “Thanks-mas” project that Rays Manager Joe Maddon does for the area homeless every year he has been with the Rays. I can not believe I forgot the one thing that brings the true Christmas spirit into my heart the last few years.
One of the things I look forward to reading about every year since Maddon came aboard with the team is the community involvement he has with the area charities and his demonstration of his great cooking skills. So in the middle of December of 2008, after his marriage and honeymoon European adventure, he made sure to come back to Tampa Bay and take care of some urgent culinary business.
But that is the kind of guy that Maddon is in life, he remembers the community . He is that guy you would want to meet you at the sports bar and watch the game with while eating a few hundred chicken wings while chatting about the little things in the game. I have had the pleasure of talking with him a few dozen times, and the guy it total class from the first word to the last. And he shows genuine passion for the area and it’s fans.
For that reason, I think the team and the community is so lucky to have signed Maddon to be our 4th club manager. Since his first days in office with the Rays, he has had an eye to the community, and had addressed the issue of homelessness and community involvement from everyone from the front office to the players. Rays staffers and personnel like Rays third base Coach Tom Foley, Head Trainer Ron Porterfield, and even Rays Radio announcer Dave Willis help distribute food and smiles during the event. But the man of the hour is Maddon who truly knows the advantages he has in life, and shares himself with the community anytime and in anyways possible to give back to the area.
And with his busy schedule after the 2008 season, you might think he would shelve the project for awhile. But no, Maddon made sure that the preparations and the products was ready and available for his yearly foray into the kitchen to cook some home favorites for the folks in the Tampa Bay area. He started this years adventure at the Bradenton Salvation Army where a roomful of anxious folks got to dine on Maddon classics taken from his mom Beanie’s recipe books.
Maddon understands that in the recent developments with employment dipping in the state and financial situation coming up almost nightly, that the community sometime needs a hand up, not a hand out. “Everybody just assumes that people within these circumstances or conditions are people who don’t want to work, or they’re lazy, or whatever,” Maddon said. “There are a lot of different reasons why people end up in that situation. And this economy is showing it right now, front and center. “
With the Tampa Bay area struggling, like the rest of the country during the holidays, Maddon understands that this is a national problem, but can only do what he can right now locally to help people understand they are not alone and there is hope upon the horizon. Maddon was quick to note that, “There are a lot of folks out there who would really much prefer having their steady job back and their homes, etc. This is a tough time. When you’re considering the homeless situation, it’s a wide variety of people and a wide variety of reasons why they’re there.”
This year is Maddon’s third consecutive year Maddon has hosted the event with the help of the Rays organization. As he has done in the past, Maddon prepared a traditional Italian holiday feast. With the help of Rays employees, Maddon shopped for the food earlier in the week before helping to cook and serve it at the Salvation Army. And if the meal was not enough, the Rays also provided gift packs for the youngsters in attendance, and also passed out Wal-Mart donated gift cards to those receiving meals.
As the people began to sit down and eat his prepared feast, Maddon added that, “I’ve been wanting to just grow this thing to the point where we include families and kids, because people don’t even consider the children involved in this situation,” Maddon said. “It’s always about a male. It’s normally a male, 40-plus, or whatever, but it’s families.
“So the more we get the information out there, and the more we shed light on the situation, the more people gain an understanding. And I need to be more educated on it myself. But I do know one thing — it’s one of those things that sticks to me and I felt like I needed to do something about it.”
Maddon wanted to add toys to the events this year because of a trend he was seeing in the past of the event where single parents and families were also being left homeless by the effects of the economy. A displaced family sometimes has no choice by separate and find shelter and food in family members in the area, or even in shelters during the holidays. This broke Maddon’s heart because it sometimes separates the family at the time of the year where they need to bond and be as one.
“Last year, when we went to the Metropolitan Ministries and at Bradenton, it was the first time we were exposed to families and single moms,” Maddon said. “And, my goodness, it’s tough, because you know where you came from, you know where you grew up. And you know what you’ve got right now and you see what you’ve got. And for me, it’s a tough thought.”
Maddon does not hide the fact that this situation gets to him deeply and sometimes he ends up in tears because of the suffering and the agony that these families must endure year round. Hosting these events is just a small bit he can do for the community, but it is a very well received holiday tradition started by a guy who is just starting out on his own family this past off season. One of the participants in this year;s event was his new wife Jaye, who sported a “Rays” Santa hat and was all smiles as she helped serve the meals this year.
Ever since the movie, “Pay It Forward” people seemed to have taken a kinship to that phrase and made more of an effort to help people. I know I do, but is people like Maddon who can make a small gesture like these fantastic Italian fests that can be the fire that gets someone to the next level and back on the road to fulfilling his own dreams and goals in life. But during the holiday season, you want to believe in miracles and that everything is possible in this world.
“When I get over my crying, in a quiet corner somewhere, it’s great,” Maddon said. “The kids are appreciative. The parents, the people are very appreciative. And also the people that work in these places. We’ve really built a pretty good relationship with them also. And furthermore, it’s Christmas, man — it is the best day of the year.” So there you go America. This is the kind of man you voted as the American League Manager of the Year. I can only say he is my candidate for “Man of the Year” based on everything he does on and off the field for the Tampa Bay Rays.
I want to than Barry Jones, one of my Facebook friends who is also the Rays Community Relations Coordinator and posted these great pictures of the event.