Peter Gammons: Maddon’s Impact On And Off The Field

Joe maddon

To the good people, this is your new Cubs manager:

Each June, the Foundation to be Named Later, started a decade ago by Theo and Paul Epstein, stages a game in Chicago called The Urban Classic, between the 18-and-under team from the Jackie Robinson West program and the Boston Astros, the two-time AAU champions from the BASE program, the nation’s largest free program.

This past June, as Theo, Paul and I oversaw the game, one of the Coaches of the Jackie Robinson West team named Mark Simmons introduced himself. “I played in the Angels system for Joe Maddon,” he said. “What an amazing man. After a couple of years in the low minors, he made me a switch-hitter. And while I didn’t make the majors, I did win a batting title in the Northwest League.”

As the game began, I texted Maddon and asked him if he remembered Simmons. Within a minute, Maddon sent back a series of texts of remininsces of Simmons and him winning that batting title in 1993. When told of Maddon’s reflections, Simmons looked around and saw the awe on the faces on the kids he coached.

Simmons said that when it was time to give up his baseball dream, Maddon urged him to go back to college and get his degree.

Since that game on Chicago’s South Side, Simmons has moved to Houston as a high school principal.

“Most important man I met outside of my family,” is Simmons’ recollection of Joe Maddon.