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Rockies assistant is one of Maddon’s closest pals

Jack EtkinRocky Mountain NewsAspen, CO Colorado
Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon, right, watches batting practice with Jason Bartlett at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla., Tuesday, Oct. 21, 2008. The Philadelphia Phillies will meet the Tampa Bay Rays in Game 1 of the World Series on Wednesday, Oct. 22. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
AP | AP

They were from different parts of the country, not close in age and had varied tastes. None of that seemed to matter when Joe Maddon and Marcel Lachemann found themselves together in 1982, roommates in spring training.”We hit it off from the beginning,” recalled Maddon, manager of the American League champion Tampa Bay Rays, who make their first World Series appearance tonight against the Philadelphia Phillies. “We’d laugh at the same things, and we’d almost finish each other’s sentences. That’s the part that was scary.”Maddon has been a fresh face on the October stage, entertaining, revealing and forthright in his daily sessions with the national media and very much admired and respected by the young, talented Rays. Lachemann, who brought Maddon to the major leagues as a coach in May 1994, has enjoyed his old friend’s success. They have talked during the postseason, catching up after Lachemann initially left a good-natured message.”A long ways from the room in Casa Grande when I’d go out running the desert and you were still up there sleeping,” Lachemann said.Casa Grande, Ariz., about halfway between Phoenix and Tucson, is where the California Angels held spring training and where the bond between Maddon and Lachemann began. Maddon had joined the Angels organization in 1981, working as an area scout in California and managing a short-season team. That fall, Lachemann, a Rockies special assistant, who just completed his ninth season in the Colorado organization, began working for the Angels and first met Maddon in the Angels instructional league program.The following spring they were roommates in Casa Grande. Maddon is an avid cyclist, biking between 60 and 100 miles a week now – but not back then.”It’d be like 6 o’clock in the morning and the alarm would go off,” Maddon said. “I would just barely get up, and Marcel would hit the deck and do his push-ups.”

Lachemann, 68, is from Los Angeles and went to the University of Southern California. He briefly pitched in the majors. Maddon, 54, is from Hazelton, Pa., and went to Lafayette College. He’s a former catcher who spent four seasons in the Angels organization, never rose above the high Single-A level and was released.Ages, backgrounds, professional experience – any differences between Maddon and Lachemann melted away. They were friends wrapped up in the game.”He’s a little bit country,” Maddon said. “I was more rock- and-roll. I didn’t quite understand his music, but he got me to start listening to it a little bit.

“A better human being – I don’t even know exists. Somebody that really cares more legitimately about what he does and the people he works with – I don’t know if that person exists. He gives you courage. He gives you strength. He makes you feel better about yourself. He does all of those things.”Maddon managed in the Angels organization through 1986, his second season at the Double-A level, and then became the organization’s minor-league hitting coordinator from 1987-1993. Lachemann crossed paths in the minors with Maddon for two seasons as the Angels minor-league pitching coordinator and then moved up to the big leagues in 1984.”He was a young guy that wanted to learn things, and you could see that,” Lachemann said. “You could see he was very detailed. He just wanted to learn. He had a passion for the game.”He wasn’t in the game because he was making a lot of money. He really liked the game and had to scrape and make it work so he could stay in the game.”Maddon said Lachemann “taught me so much,” mentioning organizational skills that applied to baseball and more specifically insight into the vital realm of pitching. “Most of my pitching knowledge comes from him,” Maddon said. “I feel pretty good about what I know about pitching – I’m talking mechanics, pitchers’ thought process, how to work with pitchers. I got that from Marcel.”

Maddon is the overwhelming favorite to be named AL Manager of the Year. The Rays lost 96 games in 2007, Maddon’s second season as their manager, and soared this year, winning 97 games and the AL East in a stunning turnaround. Maddon has helped change the Rays culture, making it team oriented, which wasn’t previously the case. But Maddon said the opportunity to do that, to implement his thoughts and ideas in the majors, happened because Lachemann put him in the big league loop.”I’m going to tell you right now, I would not be here if it wasn’t for him,” Maddon said. “A lot of it had to do with what he taught me prior to it, but he gave me my first chance to be a major league coach. And I’m here to say I don’t know if I’d have gotten that chance if it wasn’t for him.”Lachemann became manager of the Angels in May 1994 and made Maddon his bullpen coach. He was then in his third season as the Angels minor league field coordinator.Lachemann moved Maddon to first base coach in 1995 and then in 1996 bench coach, which is where Maddon spent most of his final 10 seasons with the Angels, including the last six under manager Mike Scioscia.”He’s coming off right now as the Renaissance Man, but he is that way,” Lachemann said of Maddon. “He thinks out of the box; he’s always kind of been that way. He was kind of a computer guru before computer gurus were being used in the game, and in the right way.”Maddon used to carry a cumbersome Panasonic word processor and switched to a bulky 386 laptop. He said a computer was simply a way to organize his notes, but it also gave Maddon an opportunity to get a tip-of-the-iceberg glimpse of statistical analysis when that was far from the baseball norm.”He wasn’t afraid to do stuff, which a lot of us in baseball, probably me included, are a little leery of,” Lachemann said. “He’d always take a look at it. He wouldn’t always accept it, but he’d take a look at it.”


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