Officials hope Joe Maddon's Thanksmas will live on

Now-former Rays manager Joe Maddon chats with Tracy Blackmon, 50, of Tampa, at the Salvation Army’s Trinity Cafe.
Now-former Rays manager Joe Maddon chats with Tracy Blackmon, 50, of Tampa, at the Salvation Army’s Trinity Cafe.
Published Oct. 25, 2014

In 2006, the year after he became the Rays manager, Joe Maddon introduced Thanksmas to the greater Tampa Bay area.

Held between Thanksgiving and Christmas, the events are designed to raise awareness about the homeless. And they have fed hundreds.

Maddon, his wife, Jaye, and team representatives shop for, prepare and serve the meals: spaghetti and meatballs, pierogies, salad, Italian bread and cake.

Community leaders hope the tradition will live on.

Before Friday's announcement of Maddon's departure, the Rays "reached out to us," about dates for this year, said Maj. Paul Fuller, area commander of the Salvation Army in St. Petersburg. None are confirmed, but "we hope the tradition continues," he said.

"Thanksmas was a bright spot in our community," said Pam Miller, director of development for the Salvation Army in Tampa.

The Maddons are next-door neighbors to Jill and Scott Kelley on Bayshore Boulevard in Tampa; both families are active in feeding the homeless around the holidays.

"The Maddons have been wonderful neighbors and great friends," Jill Kelley wrote in an email to the Times. "We enjoyed sharing a common interest in community service, and we are grateful for their help with the homeless during the holidays."

"This is disappointing news, as Joe has been a positive force for the Rays and our community," St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman said.

"Joe Maddon leaving? Damn," said Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn. "I love the guy. He loves serving this community, and he always does it in a very unheralded and very understated way.''

Buckhorn said he talked with Maddon last week about his new Italian restaurant.

And what about Ava, the south Tampa dining venture in which the skipper is a partner? Opening day is a few weeks away, principal owner Mike Stewart said.

"Understandable people are trepidatious, but I'm speaking from the heart: Joe's involvement with Ava is from now until eternity.

"This is not affecting the opening of the restaurant or his interest or the partnership. Tampa is his home. It's just cut and dried. His involvement was as an investor and partner. His plan was never to work there. But you will see Joe at our opening, I assure you of that."

Times staff writers Richard Danielson, Craig Gemoules, Laura Reiley and Amy Scherzer contributed to this report.