For Joe and Jaye Maddon, 2008 was the sort of year that inspires bestselling novels and Hollywood movies. The big story, of course, was the Tampa Bay Rays.
Outside the ballpark, there was also a small wedding, a large reception, building a new family life, starting a business, charitable work, overseas travel and coast-hopping across the United States.
In Rome, only three hours into their honeymoon, Joe Maddon learned he had been named American League manager of the year. When asked how she dealt with it all, Jaye Maddon doesn't hesitate: "It was crazy."
It's easy to see why. Less than two weeks after closing out the World Series and the most exciting season in Rays history, Joe Maddon and Jaye Sousoures were married in a small ceremony at St. Juliana church in Fullerton, Calif. The reception afterward was aboard the Queen Mary in Long Beach, and four days later they were bound for Europe. The honeymoon was spectacular, but the shortened offseason made time to relax at home in Tampa Bay even more valuable.
As a coach with the Angels, Joe Maddon had been coming to St. Petersburg for years. "When I first came here with the Angels, we would go from the Vinoy to Tropicana Field, Vinoy, Tropicana, Vinoy, Tropicana — that was it. I didn't have a very good impression of the area," he says. "Once I got here as a member of the Rays, I found out how truly beautiful and eclectic the area is."
After looking all over the bay area, he settled in South Tampa, where the tree-lined streets, 20th century bungalows and intimate neighborhoods reminded him of growing up in the Northeast, except "there's an ocean nearby, and the pace of living is more relaxed, more Caribbean."
His idea of a perfect day in the offseason usually begins with coffee and the newspaper, then a long bike ride along Bayshore Boulevard to Davis Islands and back, a nap and dinner out. Well known for his love of good food and good wine, Maddon counts Bern's Steak House, Fred Fleming's and Michael's 717 South among his bay area favorites.
He does the bulk of his food shopping at local health food stores, but the Italian boy from Hazleton, Pa., has a soft spot for a St. Petersburg institution. "Mazarro's is fabulous. They should have one on every corner. That's a little touch of home right there."
For wine, Maddon and Rays pitching coach Jim Hickey have enlisted their own personal wine coach. Jim Elliott, a baseball fanatic and wine enthusiast from Sarasota, even drew up a list of 11 sensational vintages — one for each win it would have taken for the Rays to clinch the World Series. They fell three games short.
"He kept us supplied with spectacular wines during the playoffs," Maddon says, and Elliott undoubtedly has a hand in helping stock the wine rack in Maddon's office at Tropicana Field. The skipper favors California reds: cabernet, merlot and zinfandel.
Jaye Maddon, who has a teenage son in California and splits her time between the two coasts, is in complete agreement about the Tampa Bay area. Except that she prefers running along the bay to cycling. She loves the smaller feel and slower pace here, but sometimes it's a wonder that she finds time to enjoy it.
In January 2008, Jaye and her business partner, Stephanie Renica, launched Third Base Concierge. After seeing firsthand the difficulties Rays players and coaches face trying to manage their personal and professional lives, she became inspired to help. The result is an enterprise that has grown steadily and provides many levels of personal assistance.
Jaye also is a firm believer in community involvement. "Our first year here with the Rays, we both volunteered at a local homeless shelter and helped serve food," she says. "Afterward, Joseph told me, 'We're going to come back next year, and I'm going to make my spaghetti and meatballs.' "
Two years later, the event is better known as Thanksmas. It has grown to involve dozens of the Rays staff, with Joe and Jaye acting as hosts, and serves hundreds of the area's homeless. (For more on Thanksmas, see page 95.)
She has also helped lead the Rays Wives School Supply Drive. Working with Lisa Howard, development director for the St. Petersburg Salvation Army, the program collected goods and donations at Rays games to equip foster children with school supplies.
"People are very in tune with what Joe and the organization are trying to do," she says. "The community has been very grateful and gracious."
After the upcoming season, the Maddons are off to Europe again. It will be a chance for them to visit with Jaye's father's family in Greece and extend their travels in Italy. Jaye's biggest hope between now and then is "finding some sort of normalcy."
Asked what's ahead, Joe Maddon doesn't hesitate: "The biggest thing I'm looking forward to in 2009 is opening spring training in Port Charlotte and having both our major and minor league teams together. That to me is an absolutely thrilling prospect."
If having the Maddons in Tampa Bay isn't thrilling enough already, Rays fans everywhere hope he's right.