Maddon using art to inspire Cubs this spring

February 20, 2018

By Carrie Muskat |

Cubs skipper inspired by offseason reading on da Vinci


MESA, Ariz. — Baseball players are artists, and Cubs manager Joe Maddon made that point when he met with pitchers and catchers on Wednesday prior to the club’s first workout of Spring Training, using art to present his 2018 themes in a colorful way.

Maddon’s messages were included on two paintings by Tampa, Fla., artist Jason Skeldon. One features Michelangelo’s David statue on the pitcher’s mound at Wrigley Field, and the other depicts Salvador Dali wearing a catcher’s mask.

Maddon has been reading Walter Isaacson’s book on Leonardo da Vinci this offseason, and when the manager walked into a clothing store, he saw a painting of Mona Lisa by Skeldon. Maddon contacted the artist, who was able to incorporate the messages using Maddon’s handwriting in the paintings.

“Look at the David,” Maddon said. “It looks like a pitcher standing on the mound. Now if you research it, David is the dude who went after Goliath. The actual statue of David is supposed to be prior to the event where he’s standing there kind of tense and he looks like he’s on the mound — look at him, he looks like he’s on the pitching mound.

“If you look at it, he’s holding that slingshot and there’s a rock. Often times, you call the baseball a rock. You talk about dictating, you talk about being proactive. You see, ‘Dominate 1-1.’ Look at what happens when the count switches from 1-1 to 1-2 or 2-1 from a pitcher’s perspective. There’s other things in there — [pitcher’s fielding practice], control the running game, keep the double plays in order, all those little smaller messagews and control and command 3-2. That was the pitching side of it.”

What about Dali the catcher?

“When I did clinics for 100 years, how many times have you heard catching gear being talked about as tools of ignorance?” Maddon said. “For me, no way. It’s tools of intelligence. I wanted to highlight that at the top. Beyond that, in order to know something, you have to feel it. There’s a great quote from Dali about how if you’re looking for perfection, don’t worry, you’re never going to achieve it.”

The actual quote is, “Have no fear of perfection — you’ll never reach it.” You get the message. Maddon is hoping the players do, too.

“It’s small, simple direct messages that a guy can hold onto,” Maddon said.

There are four more paintings coming that will be part of Maddon’s message and will be hung in the hallway of the Cubs’ Spring Training complex. He is hoping to not only cleverly present his themes but also sell copies of the paintings for his Respect 90 foundation and promote art.

“I wanted our guys to know they’re artists,” Maddon said. “If you watch video of a well-played game, a great play whether it’s baseball, basketball, football, you see artistry in the movement of the athletes. I want to think of them as artists.”

Let’s paint, too? Maddon unveils more Cubs art

art to inspire

Skipper shows off Mona Lisa, Einstein — with North Side twist


MESA, Ariz. — Manager Joe Maddon added to his Cubs-inspired art collection on Monday, revealing a painting of Mona Lisa wearing eye black, batting gloves and holding a bat, and another of Albert Einstein donning a jersey that says “Skip” and popping out of a box.

The paintings will be added to two others Maddon unveiled when pitchers and catchers had their first workout. It’s part of the manager’s attempt to put art back into the game of baseball — and get his message across in a unique way.

“We all do our work,” Maddon said. “Our guys are good at working, and they’re very talented at what they do, but beyond all that, [there is] the feel component of the game, and I want them on a daily basis to be concerned about their enthusiasm and their energy.

“I really believe if we understand showing up mentally every day with a lot of energy and life, and combine that with what we naturally do anyway, it will permit us to get off to a good start.”

Somehow, Tampa, Fla., artist James Skeldon was able to incorporate Maddon’s handwriting and messages on the paintings, so Einstein’s physics theory, E=mc2 is translated to “E2=win2” in baseball — energy and enthusiasm equals wins.

“It’s the same stuff, but I try to present it in a different way,” Maddon said of his message to the players. “It’s important to say the same thing with other words.”

Another part of Monday’s team meeting included a video of the San Antonio Spurs, focusing on their camaraderie, teamwork, unity and precision. Outfielder Jason Heyward suggested blending what the Spurs do with what the Cubs should focus on.

• The Cubs play their first Cactus League game on Friday against the Brewers. That means the coaches have to condense their drills. Monday was the first full-squad workout. Maddon hopes to address cutoffs and relays, popup communication and rundowns before the first game.

“All this work you do prior to the games, it starts to drag a little bit normally,” he said. “This is the first full-squad day — how many days have [the players] been here? They’ve been doing hitting. They’ve been fielding ground balls. They’ve been running. It’s not like it had been where guys showed up and put the old sweat belt on and [drank] some electrolytes and went out there and tried to lose some weight by sweating. That doesn’t happen any more.”

• Maddon had a chance to talk with Anthony Rizzo on Monday for the first time since the first baseman returned home to Florida to be with family and friends after the shooting at his high school. Rizzo spoke at a prayer vigil in Parkland, Fla.

“I want him to take care of himself,” Maddon said. “That’s an emotional moment for any one of us. I think people like him tend to be carriers and they will carry other people’s weight of emotion. I will encourage him to take care of himself while he’s coming back and ease into this situation, because he’s been through a lot.”

• Ben Zobrist did not take part in Monday’s workout because of some soreness in his back.

“It’s nothing awful,” Maddon said. “He’s feeling great, actually. [We’re] not pushing right now, making sure everybody’s well. We’ve got four days to get ready. Don’t push him right now. That’s all that is.”

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for since 2001. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.