Hazleton native Maddon excited for 1st trip to Williamsport
PITTSBURGH — Joe Maddon has never been to Williamsport. The West Hazleton native still has a home about 75 miles east of Williamsport and spends most of his offseason working with the Hazleton Integration Project, a community based organization that tries to unite people of different cultures who now live in Hazleton.
“It’s still home,” Maddon said before facing the Pirates on July 1.
Maddon has driven down Interstate 180 countless times, passing downtown Williamsport while flowing with the Susquehanna River. He’s seen the Little League mural on the parking garage just off the Market Street bridge and he’s had quick glances at the Little League Complex, but he’s never stopped at the Birthplace of Little League.
Though it’s come later than he’d liked, the fifth-year Cubs manager is still excited to visit the area when the Pirates and the Cubs battle in the MLB Little League Classic Sunday night.
“I think it’s great. I am very excited about that actually. I’ve never been there, weirdly. It’s an hour away from home,” Maddon said. “…I’m fascinated. It’s one of those firsts in life that comes a little bit later but I’ll take it. I think our guys are going to be jacked up like everybody else is when you go into that. Anytime you get this opportunity to digress or get into those memory banks and try to extract some stuff from it, it’s going to be fun. And we’re all looking forward to it.”
Maddon, who’s won two World Series titles as a coach, most recently with the Cubs in 2016, has an affinity for historic places. He remembers walking up the dugout stairs at famed Fenway Park in the early part of his professional coaching career with the Angels as a first base coach in 1993. He remembers when he was introduced as the Cubs manager and had an opportunity to walk around the century old Wrigley Field.
Now he’s excited to strut around the impressive Little League Complex and coach at the second oldest minor league ballpark.
“Now I get to see this as a Cub, the Little League field and where the Williamsport minor league facility is. I’m curious about that. I’m into the visuals,” Maddon said. “I wanna see what it looks like and how it meets the mind’s eye. Beyond that, of course meeting with the kids and I’m sure I’m going to have some run ins with folks I’ve known in the past without even realizing it. We’re all very excited for the experience.”
Maddon said getting a chance to take in some Little League games will give him a chance to relive some of his own days as a youth. He remembers playing for UNICO as a nine-year-old. He also can still show where he put a dent in the water tower beyond left field in Hazleton.
“It was a big thing to be able to reach the water tank,” Maddon said proudly.
Maddon is looking forward to running into some old friends from the region and he hopes to bring his mom over from Hazleton as well as some other relatives that still live in Luzerne County.
“I heard it’s very fun and cool and everybody wants that opportunity to go in and do it. Philadelphia and Pittsburgh primarily benefit from it, the Phillies and Pirates, which they should,” Maddon said. “But for me, it’s going to be a lot of fun. When I first heard about it, I was really excited.”