Joe Maddon brought his zoo-animal act into Wrigley Field’s interview room/dungeon, once again showing why he’s the perfect leader for the three-ring circus at Clark and Addison.
The Cubs manager helped organize a petting zoo on the field – snow leopard, sloth, armadillo, penguin – for players and coaches and their families before Tuesday’s 4-0 win over the Milwaukee Brewers. Obviously.
So there was Maddon during his pregame media session, sitting up on the platform in front of the microphone and talking to a flamingo named Warren.
“My goal in life was to eventually own a bar named ‘The Pink Flamingo,’” Maddon said. “If that ever happens, then I’ve made it. And if that ever does happen, Warren’s going to be at the opening night.
“Thank you, Warren, you did not disappoint.”
Maddon credited traveling secretary Vijay Tekchandani, who lined it up with the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. The Ohio zoo lists TV personality Jack Hanna as its director emeritus. Tekchandani had found Simon the Magician for Maddon on an off-day in Manhattan in late June, getting him to perform inside Citi Field’s visiting clubhouse before a win over the New York Mets.
Maddon’s gimmicks probably have an expiration date and might not always generate universal enthusiasm inside the clubhouse. But his overall style has turned down the pressure and deflected attention away from young players like Kris Bryant, who blasted his 26th home run on Tuesday night, breaking the rookie franchise record held by Hall of Famer Billy Williams.
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Jonny Gomes – the Kansas City Royals outfielder who knows all about clubhouse chemistry and was there when the Tampa Bay Devil Rays turned into a 2008 World Series team – explained Maddon’s stunts this way:
“There are quirks that he brings into it. It’s meaningful and there’s passion and research, of course, and big words behind it. It’s not really just like bringing in a rodeo clown and having him jump out of the barrel and get back in the barrel.
“I would love for someone to come up with a hitting coach or pitching coach and a manager where the whole team was on board to where your whole staff would take a bullet for (them). But if (there was a) book on how to do that, it would have been written (already).
“Like everything (Maddon) does, it’s prepared. It’s not a fast-food (idea) or a quick Band-Aid.”
Maddon is 61 years old and in the first season of five-year, $25 million contract, on the verge of clinching a playoff spot and on pace for 95 wins.
Maddon is going to enjoy this and do it his way. Happy hour with Warren at “The Pink Flamingo” can wait.
“It just came together perfectly on this particular day,” Maddon said. “Great weather outside…3 o’clock on a Tuesday afternoon…what else would you want to be doing except greeting (zoo animals)? There you have it.”