NEW YORK – Jon Lester seems like the last guy who would believe in magic tricks or want to play dress-up on road trips.
Lester is a serious person and – at the age of 31 – not exactly a young kid on this particular Cubs team led by ringmaster Joe Maddon.
“Thanks,” Lester said with a laugh late Wednesday night at Citi Field. “Thanks for putting that lightly.”
So Lester doesn’t have his game face on all the time, and image isn’t everything when it comes to his perception of Maddon’s management style, which developed while they were on opposite sides of an American League East rivalry, the Tampa Bay Rays trying to topple the Boston Red Sox.
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“You never know how to take it,” Lester said. “You don’t really know: Is it unprofessional?
“But being around him, he’s great. It’s great – especially for these guys that are young that haven’t done this – to keep it light, to keep it entertaining.”
That’s what Maddon had in mind after leaving Busch Stadium, the St. Louis Cardinals giving his team a reality check with that three-game sweep last weekend. Enter Simon the Magician, who did his act in the clubhouse on Tuesday before what would become a three-game sweep of the New York Mets.
“This game is so hard to stay attentive to for the whole season,” Lester said. “When you have things like that, it kind of like rejuvenates guys a little bit. You have something fun and interesting at the field. You just don’t see that.
“It kind of breaks people’s concentrations for a little bit and lets them reboot. And then (you) go back out there and play baseball.”
Sweeping the Mets certainly isn’t a cause-and-effect situation, but Maddon’s look-at-me swagger and Steve Miller Band’s “Abracadabra” blasting on the clubhouse sound system gives some insight into the team’s chemistry.
Lester will still send out all-business vibes, going off into his own little world on the day he pitches and rarely hanging around his locker staring at his phone or goofing off with teammates.
But someone who has pressed while trying to make a good first impression – and felt the weight of that $155 million contract – understands what Maddon is trying to do here as a mad scientist.
“All this stuff is great,” Lester said. “It’s not tacky. It’s not in your face. It’s nothing that goes overboard with anything. It’s all in good fun. (It’s) enjoying playing baseball and winning baseball games.”