Family first, as always, for Maddux boys on Hall day

Posted Sunday, Jul. 27, 2014  comments  Print Reprints
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The perception the baseball-loving world has of Mike Maddux’s little brother evolved from postgame interviews during his long, distinguished career that brought him to the pinnacle of baseball achievement.

Greg Maddux was often captured on camera wearing a pair of round glasses and speaking softly about what had just happened on the mound, oftentimes after a victory or a narrow loss, primarily for the Chicago Cubs and Atlanta Braves.

He looked the part of a professor for most of his 23 big league seasons. That, combined with his off-the-charts baseball IQ, led to him being tagged with the nickname “The Professor.”

Brother Mike, older by four years and seven months, doesn’t wear the glasses, at least on camera. But, like his brother, he also doesn’t get animated during an interview, or when on the mound counseling a Texas Rangers pitcher.

The brothers, however, know better.

“He’s got them snookered,” Mike Maddux said of Greg.

“He’s got a little Eddie Haskell in him,” Greg said of Mike.

That’s the worst the Maddux boys, now 52 and 48, would say about one another, and they had opportunities to pile on. But they’re brothers, after all, and had each other’s back.

And though they are defined publicly by their lives in baseball, family trumps all.

“Family is probably the cornerstone of everybody’s career,” Mike said. “Without family support, without support of a wife, your parents and your entire family, you’re swimming upstream.

“We make sacrifices as players to provide for our families. You see our schedules. It’s a sacrifice. Once you’re happy with what you’re doing and you’ve accomplished some things in your lives, and you look back and say, ‘I wish I would have taken a little more time to smell the roses.’ 

So, Mike left his post as Rangers pitching coach after Thursday’s game at Yankee Stadium to meet Greg in this beautiful upstate village, where he was the headliner of the six players inducted Sunday into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

He was joined by former Braves teammate Tom Glavine and manager Bobby Cox, along with two-time American League MVP Frank Thomas and World Series-winning managers Joe Torre and Tony La Russa.

Madduxes were expected to be there in full force, with 15 from the immediate family and scores of uncles, aunts and cousins making the pilgrimage to baseball’s most hallowed grounds.

Mike could probably be a manager now, and Greg could surely be a pitching coach. But each sided with the pull of family and the desire to spend more time with their wives and children after years of putting baseball first.

Sure, they were compensated handsomely to be away from home, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t lamented the family time they missed, and they do to their best to not miss more.

Greg is doing that as a coach on his son’s teams, when he’s not visiting Rangers affiliates as a special assistant to the general manager. That post is allowing him to get a feel for what it might be like to be a full-time big league pitching coach without sacrificing the family time.

But in early July he was at an American Legion tournament in Reno, Nev., working with high school pitchers whom he refers to as “my guys.” He will call Mike, bullpen coach Andy Hawkins or Rangers minor league pitching coaches Brad Holman and Jeff Andrews for help if he gets stumped by one of the teenagers.

“I’m very content doing what I’m going right now. I’m getting a taste of it, but I’m not all in,” Greg said. “It’s nice when pitchers are doing something mechanically that I don’t know how to fix, I can call, and I start giving advice to these kids from those guys.”

Baseball, though, is what brought the brothers closer together. They were never distant, despite an age gap that kept them from attending the same schools for the majority of their youth.

When Mike was 12 and playing ball with his older friends, he would bring Greg along, and Greg would have to figure out how to beat older players. When the family finally settled in Las Vegas after years of bouncing around as their father served in the Air Force, Greg’s peers were no match for him.

“Some people you push, and some people get pulled,” Mike said. “I’d say we pulled Greg. He was always my first-round pick because he was better than they were, but he really had to compete harder to break even. By the time he played against his own age group, he was so far ahead.”

Eventually, the Maddux boys started working out under the tutelage of coach Ralph Meder. Both faced older competition in Sunday pickup games, but Greg distinctly remembers that’s when he grew as a pitcher.

He was 16 during one baseball off-season and pitching against Marty Barrett, who was in Triple A on his way to an everyday job as Boston’s second baseman. Meder told Maddux to throw a curveball in the dirt.

“Mr. Meder is back there, and I was like, ‘What are you talking about?’ ” he said. “Nobody had ever told me to throw a ball before. That’s kind of where learning how to pitch started right there. Up until when you’re 15 or 16, all you’re trying to do is throw as hard as you can and throw a strike with no clue about pitching.

“I remember that day. That’s the first time it ever occurred to me. We learned at a young age about location and movement and changing speeds and pitch selection.”

By that time, Mike was pitching at UT El Paso and would make his pro debut in 1982, two years before Greg was drafted. But that’s when the age difference was bridged by their common profession.

Mike, in Triple A, would tell Greg what to expect at each level, though it wasn’t long before they were both pitching in the major leagues. Mike debuted with Philadelphia on June 3, 1986. Greg followed Sept. 2.

The relationship has grown ever since, and their time together with the Rangers has taught them that their beliefs in baseball are strikingly similar.

“We’ve shared our whole lives together,” Greg said. “We share common interests. We work the same way. We shared an occupation. We’re at all the family Christmases and Thanksgivings. We’ve been a big part of each other’s lives.

“Growing up we did things together, but because of the age difference, it wasn’t quite the same. Once we both started playing, we had our separate teams, but we always reached back in the off-season.”

Said Mike: “We moved closer as we got older because we had the common bond of working the same hours and having the same careers. Our downtime was at the same time. We did the same thing as kids, always competing. Both of us have been touched.”

The competition rages still today, though maybe not Sunday.

Mike and the family were in the crowd watching as Greg received the game’s highest honor. After all, family trumps all for the Maddux brothers.

“You list your priorities, and family is first,” Greg said. “It’s what you do. You raise your kids, right? You try to do it to the best of your ability. You make sacrifices for them.”

Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @JeffWilson_FWST

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