Make us your home page
Instagram

Joe Maddon talks about annual Thanksmas fundraiser in Tampa

TAMPA — Joe Maddon, the National League manager of the year, may focus most of his energy in Chicago these days, but his pierogi and meatballs remain the stars of an annual festivity in Tampa Bay.

As they have every year since 2006, Maddon, restaurateur Michael Stewart and an impressive array of volunteers, coaches, current and former major-league players and media celebs come together for a multipart event Maddon calls Thanksmas. On Thursday, a group headed to the Homeless Empowerment Program in Clearwater to serve a festive meal and dole out gifts, and tonight the public is invited to a fundraiser at Ava and 717 South on S Howard Avenue in Tampa, the latter owned by Stewart and the former owned jointly by Stewart and Maddon.

"The mission in 2006 was to serve the homeless," Maddon said by phone Thursday. "When I was living in California, I would ride my bike and see homeless people pushing their grocery carts with all their belongings, and it really upset me. I always said if I had a bigger soapbox, I would do something. And I thought the best way was to cook food — I'm Italian."

Every year in an evening of dining, revelry and celebrity guest bartending, the group raises money used to purchase essentials for the homeless.

"There have been sneakers for kids; we've done hoodies and toothbrushes and socks. People don't realize how many of the homeless are single moms, and a lot of veterans, and people with mental illness," Maddon said, adding humbly, "I'm not qualified to speak about it, and this is a small drop in the bucket."

That said, Thanksmas has expanded beyond Tampa, conducted also to benefit the Hazleton Integration Project in Maddon's hometown of Hazleton, Pa., and, Maddon says, "We're doing it up in Chicago for Cub Fest; it's crazy."

Stewart says this year's event at the Homeless Empowerment Program includes volunteers such as former Rays Andy Sonnanstine, Toby Hall, Rich Thompson and Dan Wheeler. And the restaurant fundraiser assembles serious star power: Rays Kevin Kiermaier and Matt Moore will be guest bartenders, as will Melvin (B.J.) Upton (who Stewart insists is "one of the best bartenders I've ever seen"), the Cubs' Kyle Schwarber, Sam Fuld of the Oakland A's, and local media notables such as WFLA-Ch. 8's Gayle Guyardo and ABC Action News' Brendan McLaughlin and Ashley Glass.

When asked if there is tension between Maddon and Rays players since his departure, he says things are "very cordial."

"We've moved beyond all that. It's been good on both sides and opened up opportunities for a lot of people. It's good to till the soil a little bit. Kevin Cash has been doing a great job."

Not all is status quo for this year's Thanksmas. On Thursday afternoon, 717 South executive chef Robert Masson was furiously rolling meatballs from Maddon's recipe (a blend of Italian sausage, ground beef, Romano cheese, Italian herbs and bread crumbs — Maddon is steadfastly against onion in meatballs). Masson also had pierogi duty, a potato-and-cheese version that Maddon's grandmother used to make at St. Stanislaus Catholic Church in Hazleton to eat on no-meat Fridays.

"Normally I do some of the cooking, but I have no time," Maddon said. "There's been so much going on personally for me in the past 24 months."

Contact Laura Reiley at lreiley@tampabay.com or (727) 892-2293. Follow @lreiley on Twitter.

>>if you go

Thanksmas fundraiser

The Thanksmas fundraiser runs 5 p.m. to midnight today at both Ava (718 S Howard Ave.) and 717 South (717 S Howard Ave.) in Tampa. Customers are encouraged to come in for a whole meal or just a drink at the bar, with proceeds benefiting area homeless organizations.

Joe Maddon talks about annual Thanksmas fundraiser in Tampa 12/10/15 [Last modified: Thursday, December 10, 2015 9:48pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Bar review: Les Partners Lounge goes old-school in Clearwater

    Bars & Spirits

    There are some local places that I'm shocked aren't more well known, and I think that's the result of a general aversion to stepping out of one's comfort zone. I make regular concerted efforts to step outside of mine, which often leads me to strange and rewarding drinking establishments.

    Les Partners Lounge is an old-school, smoker-friendly cocktail lounge and live music venue tucked away in a nondescript shopping plaza in Island Estates.
  2. Local craft beer of the week: Plongeur a L'eponge, Saint Somewhere Brewing Co.

    Bars & Spirits

    Tarpon Springs' Saint Somewhere Brewing Co. has a somewhat idiosyncratic approach to wild ale brewing, utilizing an open brewing approach involving uncovered fermenters in order to brew beer with local ambient microbes, reminiscent in some ways to the fermentation techniques used by rustic farmhouse breweries in Belgium …

     Plongeur a?€š€™L?ˆš??ponge, Saint Somewhere Brewing Company, 6/23/17  Electric Chair Sour Shandy, Angry Chair Brewing, 6/30/17   Pulp Friction Grapefruit IPA, Motorworks Brewing 7/7/17
  3. ‘80s acts dominate lineup of 2017 Epcot Food and Wine Festival

    Blogs

    Oh, yes. Christmas is coming early this year to ‘80s fans in Florida. Disney’s Epcot Center has announced the lineup to its “Eat to the Beat” concert series that coincides with their annual International Food & Wine Festival.

  4. Equality Florida leader honored at Tampa U2 concert

    Briefs

    TAMPA — Equality Florida director Nadine Smith couldn't attend last week's U2 concert in Tampa, but she can tell you which of her friends had great seats for the June 14 show at Raymond James Stadium.

    Nadine Smith, Equality Florida founder and CEO, received a unique distinction last week when U2 included her in a montage of photos saluting activism and women leaders.
  5. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for June 23

    Events

    Leslie Odom Jr.: A solo concert by the Broadway star who won a Tony for his performance as Aaron Burr in Hamilton. 7 p.m., Ferguson Hall at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts, 1010 N MacInnes Place, Tampa. $35.50-$55.50. (813) 229-7827.

    Leslie Odom Jr. accepts the award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical in "Hamilton"  during the 70th Annual Tony Awards  on June 12, 2016.  (Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)