SURPRISE, Ariz. – Joe Maddon manages his team with an anti-rules philosophy that allows Cubs players to be themselves. No dress code. Grow your beard and your hair as long as you want. Just show up on time and play hard.
So you could predict how Maddon would react to Chicago’s push to ban smokeless tobacco at the city’s ballparks and arenas.
“I’m into personal freedoms,” Maddon said Wednesday at Surprise Stadium. “I don’t quite understand the point with all that. Just eradicate tobacco, period, if you’re going to go that route. I’m not into over-legislating the human race.
“I stopped chewing tobacco about 15 years ago. I’m glad that I did, because I think I feel better because of it. I know the pitfalls. But I’m into (educating) the masses and let everybody make their own decisions.
“Inherently, that’s what I’m about – (not telling) me what I can and cannot do as an adult.”
The City Council news broke before the Cubs played the defending World Series champion Kansas City Royals in Arizona. Chicago will raise the legal age to buy cigarettes and other tobacco products from 18 to 21. The city will also tax products beyond cigarettes, like cigars and chewing tobacco.
“You don’t want your Little League kid to do that,” pitcher John Lackey said after throwing five sharp innings and allowing two runs in a 10-0 loss. He gestured toward his son wearing a No. 41 Lackey jersey in the visiting clubhouse. “I don’t want him to do it. I don’t do it personally. But grown men should have their own choices.
“People in the stands can have a beer, but we can’t do what we want? That’s a little messed up.”
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Boston and San Francisco are among the big-league cities imposing similar measures, with tobacco products banned at Fenway Park beginning April 1 and the Giants about to begin their first season at AT&T Park under the new law.
Maddon said he used to dip and chew, but finally stopped around 2000, at the urging of his kids. Stuffing Bounty paper towels in his mouth helped him quit.
“It comes down to telling me what I can and cannot do,” Maddon said. “If it’s illegal, then I can’t do it, I get it. But don’t try to make choices for me. Like a couple years ago – (when) they made it so you couldn’t serve a certain-size soda pop in New York City – come on.
“When everybody else thinks that they know what’s good for me, I don’t appreciate that.”
Veteran catcher Miguel Montero, who originally signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2001, has been hooked since playing in the minor leagues, where tobacco products are technically banned.
The Major League Baseball Players Association allowed for certain concessions – like not using tobacco during pre- and postgame TV interviews – without agreeing to total prohibition in the labor deal that expires after this season.
The Chicago measure becomes law 90 days after passage, according to a City Council spokesman, with a $250 minimum fine for a first violation, a $500 fine for the second violation and at least a $2,500 penalty for each additional violation that occurs within one year of the first offense.
“(This) probably will help me to quit, because it’s a really bad habit,” Montero said. “We’ll probably have to get a lot of nicotine gum instead. It’s going to be hard, because you’re an addict, pretty much. It’s going to be tough to quit cold turkey. Hopefully, I can quit.”
Montero smiled at the group of reporters standing by his locker.
“I’m probably going to be a little bit moody,” Montero said, “so I probably won’t want to talk to you guys sometimes.”