Joe Maddon comes home for Thanksmas, fundraiser

December 15, 2016

By Kent Jackson | Standard-Speaker

World Series winning manager Joe Maddon of the Chicago Cubs is coming home to Hazleton for a triple-header.

Maddon will attend a fund-raising banquet Friday at the Valley Country Club, be the guest of honor on Saturday night at the Hazleton One Community Center and help cook for Hazleton families in need during a meal that he calls Thankmas on Sunday afternoon at the center.

The annual banquet, held this year at the country club from 6 to 11 p.m., helps finance the community center, which Maddon started four years ago in the former Most Precious Blood School at Fourth and Seybert streets.

On Nov. 2 leading into the series finale, 63 of the 275 tickets had been sold for the banquet.

The day after the Cubs defeated the Cleveland Indians, 8-7 in extra innings, 340 people asked for tickets.

“I guess that World Series business seems like it is a pretty big deal to people,” Bob Curry, a founding board member of the center, said. “It was a great series. It was such a moment in American life that everybody felt euphoria.”

The banquet will be a semi-formal event where guests can mingle and enjoy themselves playing casino-style games.

“You don’t win any money. It’s just for fun,” Curry said.

Just as ticket sales swelled after the Cubs won their first series title in 108 years, so did offers to welcome Maddon back home to Hazleton, where he played baseball and football in high school.

Curry, whose wife, Elaine, is Maddon’s cousin, said one suggestion was to hold a parade down Broad Street.

Hazleton’s typical winter weather chilled that idea.

Instead, there will be a gathering in the gymnasium at the center on Saturday from 6 to 8 p.m.

The public is welcome.

Admission is free, but there will be no opportunity for Maddon to sign autographs.

Local officials will make remarks and present proclamations to Maddon during a short program.

Then Maddon will answer questions from children who attend the center.

“Joe wants to spend time with the kids,” Curry said. “That should be a lot of fun.”

Thankmas, a meal that Maddon first held in Tampa when he managed the Rays, has been held in Hazleton the past six years.

“Thankmas is what started it all for Joe realizing that he could make a difference in the community if he put the right people and right possibilities in motion,” Curry said.

The meal from noon to 3 p.m. will feature “wonderful ethnic food, some of which we make ourselves,” said Curry, adding that Maddon’s mother, Albina, will make meatballs to accompany the spaghetti. Jerk chicken, pierogies and roast pork also are on the menu.

While Curry and others from the community center send out invitations to the city’s homeless shelter and through schools and social agencies, people can sign up to attend Thankmas at the center.

“We expect well over 500, maybe over 600 guests,” Curry said.