WILKES-BARRE — Joe Maddon came home Monday and as usual, he made an impact.
Maddon was at the Valley Country Club in Sugarloaf for his golf tournament that was expected to raise between $30,000 and $40,000 for the Hazleton Integration Project — the foundation Maddon established as a community-based effort that seeks to unite the people of many different cultures who call Hazleton home.
Ryne Sandberg, former Cubs star and Hall of Famer, was on hand — to golf, not to speak to the media. He did hit a heckuva drive off his first tee.
Maddon, after a long on-camera interview with Jayson Stark of The Athletic — who also stayed away from his local media brethren — held a news conference to tell us a lot of stuff. He talked about his Cubs and his players. He blasted social media, saying it was bad. He praised HIP for its work in the city where he grew up and played football and baseball.
Maddon even mentioned his “buddy,” Louie Barletta. That would be U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta who is now the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate trying to unseat two-term Democrat Sen. Bob Casey.
Maddon acknowledged that he and “Louie” don’t agree much on political issues, but they are still, as he said, buddies. No endorsement was offered for the former Hazleton mayor and former high school pal of Maddon’s.
And as always with Maddon, he can be fascinating and he was on this day. Maddon was wearing a shirt that said “Just try not to suck” — the catch phrase that helped propel the Chicago Cubs to their first World Series title in 108 years in 2016, and the slogan for the charity golf tournament. It’s really good advice for just about anything — if one is trying to succeed in baseball, golf or life.
Maddon brought a piece of art that intrigued many attending the golf event. It’s a picture of Uncle Sam with the message “be yourself.”
The concept — “Putting the Art Back into Thee Game” — began with Maddon trying to find creative ways of getting his messages to his players. He said there will be eight images when he’s done.
The first six — Uncle Sam, Einstein, Ali, Mona Lisa, The Statue of David and Salvador Dali — are complete and a few have been sold at auction for thousands of dollars for various charities. Two more are planned — a Banksy parody and a Mad Magazine cover (Maddon Magazine). All contain Joe’s messages to his players.
“I’m no artist by any means, but I have always enjoyed the concepts,” Maddon said. “I tried to coerce Major League Baseball to adopt this as a campaign to promote the game of baseball to young people. I was unable to get anybody to bite, so I did it myself.”
Maddon’s associate, Rick Vaughn, said this has been an idea of Joe’s for years. He has always believed baseball players are artists, the field is their canvas and the glove, bat and ball their brushes. Maddon wanted to incorporate art into the game in a way to inspire players, perhaps attract young fans to view the game in a more creative way, to promote the arts, and to raise money for Respect 90 — the foundation Joe established with his wife, Jaye, that provides children and families opportunities to develop championship attitudes through sports, academics and community involvement.
Maddon said the entire art campaign will be rolled out June 15. It will include prints, some limited edition and signed, with net proceeds going to Respect 90. Merchandise — T-shirts and hoodies — will be available at Korked Baseball. Other items will follow.
Each painting is scrawled with powerful messages pertinent to life on and off the field.
“The pictures draw you in and then after that you give it more attention,” Maddon said.
The first creation was the Mona Lisa — the centerpiece to the project.
“On that particular painting, there’s a lot of little baseball concepts — a lot of general baseball concepts,” Maddon said. “It’s about looking at things with first-time eyes, first-time passion. She was about putting the art back into the game.”
Whatever the concept or however the messages are delivered, with Maddon at the helm, success will follow.
Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle, or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.