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Maddon makes a special connection with thoughts on life, careers and baseball


Twenty-one students filed into the Gibbs High School media center, many of them dressed in their best.

After all, they were interviewing a special guest: Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon appeared via Skype from the team's spring training camp in Port Charlotte.

"This is something I've wanted to do for a while," Maddon told the class Tuesday, "particularly with journalism students, which I love."

This was the "first go-around," for the Rays, according to Pinellas County School District language arts specialist Chastity Downing. She said she immediately thought of Gibbs High when the Rays reached out to her with the idea of a Skype interview.

If all went well, Downing said, the school district and the Rays would form a partnership and include Rays players in future Skype interviews.

It did go well, despite a few technological glitches. The students picked Maddon's brain about the difficulties of his job, what he does in his free time and what he would do if he wasn't a major league manager.

Student body vice president A'Keem Burns asked Maddon, 60, about obstacles he overcame throughout his career. Maddon then detailed the road he took to become the Rays' manager, beginning with how he began playing in the minor leagues when he was 21 years old — for a $500 monthly salary.

"I'm here to tell you that it was hard to get to this point," he said. "I tell my kids all the time, 'Enjoy the struggle, because the struggle is pretty much a very enjoyable part of your life.' "

That resonated with Burns, an 18-year-old senior who is figuring out how to pay for college.

"He said to never get discouraged," Burns said. "In the end, it's all worth it."

The Skype session was moderated by Cassandra Cummings, a teacher in Gibbs' business, economic, technology academy, and a Rays fan. She said she was star-struck.

"Mr. Maddon has had his own struggles growing up," she said. "Some of these kids have their struggles too, so it was nice to see how he focused more on his personal life."

Deira Crompton, an 18-year-old senior and aspiring newspaper journalist, said she too admired the manager's personal approach. She added, "I felt really special that we were the first school he Skyped with."

Maddon said he got the idea to Skype with students as outreach after he Skyped with eighth-graders in New Jersey at a friend's request. One of the students asked how he would use technology to benefit the Rays, and Maddon was inspired.

"I had no intention of doing it further until that little kid asked me that question," he said.

Maddon said he was impressed with the questions the Gibbs students asked.

"It's just natural with what we do," he said. "We get interviewed all the time."

Colleen Wright can be reached at, (727) 893-8913 or on Twitter @Colleen_Wright.

Maddon makes a special connection with thoughts on life, careers and baseball 03/14/14 [Last modified: Friday, March 14, 2014 6:41pm]
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