Joe Maddon: Major League Baseball Coach & Community Activist
By: Sal Bolaños
Many people say they don’t have the time to make a difference, or even try to stand up for what they think is wrong and actually put an idea to work. Let’s take a look at Tampa Bay Rays Head Coach Joe Maddon, he has proven to many people that “not having time” isn’t an excuse for not getting involved and giving back to your community. The 58 year old former native of Hazleton, Pennsylvania has already made a huge impact in his Major League Baseball career winning over 500 games and being a 2 time American League Manager of the Year. He has brought baseball back to life in Tampa Bay and has shown that winning isn’t about having a huge payroll or All-Star players. He simply believes that hard-work, dedication, and diversity from youthful and even older players is key to succeed. The funny thing about that is that Joe believes that the same mentality should apply to everything else in life and he certainly shows it through his constant efforts of helping his hometown of Hazelton, Pennsylvania.
If you are unaware, Hazelton, Pennsylvania is undergoing major racism and issues concerning illegal immigration. The small town is seeing mass rallies against immigrants, mainly the Hispanic community. The Hispanics that are business men and women, moms and dads, brothers and sisters are slowly seeing their justice being taken away. Last year, Joe came home for Christmas and saw that the older, white population and the new, rapidly growing Hispanic population weren’t getting along. This lower-middle class northeastern Pennsylvania city of roughly 25,000 people was no longer the kind of cohesive community in which the manager of the Tampa Bay Rays once knew growing up. It had become a tense, untrusting place, and that bothered him. Joe immediately began searching for ways to fix this problem and after some time passed even with his baseball season in the way, he still managed to put something together, and started The Hazleton Integration Project. This project was to bring Hazleton’s white and Hispanic communities closer together and to finally prove that both can co-exist.
Hazaleton’s history is the country’s history, and just like anywhere else in the United States, immigration happened and that was just the way it worked. So why is it we see so much hatred towards those doing the same thing in today’s society; Living the American dream, being free, living as one? Coach Maddon said for decades, families of all descents clustered in ethnic enclaves determined by parish and church. The south side of the city was mostly Irish, the west end was mostly Polish and the northern neighborhoods around Most Precious Blood? Mostly Italian.
Maddon also stated that his parents migrated and almost never learned English. Maddon’s biggest crush is that he loves coming back home, but not to an environment like this one. He knows this is not what his hometown is about and knows that it can be changed only if people take control and step up. Maddon is the symbol that “not having time” isn’t, and shouldn’t be an excuse to not get involved to take a stand and make a difference. The Major League baseball season is right around the corner and Coach Maddon is still traveling back and fourth attempting to stop this prejudice lifestyle and is only hoping that many others follow his footsteps and lead by example in their community.
Photo provided by Associated Press