ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Suddenly, to Joe Maddon, a baseball result turned more than small. In an instant, his day changed, thoughts turned deep, and travel out of Boston became a time to place life in perspective.
Maddon stood near the home dugout Friday at Tropicana Field, four days after he and the Tampa Bay Rays were at Fenway Park the afternoon three people were killed and more than 170 injured in the Boston Marathon bombings. He was asked about the experience before a game against the Oakland Athletics, the first appearance at his home stadium since returning from a scheduled 10-game, 11-day road trip that included a stop in Boston on that sad day.
Monday was supposed to be about celebration, a time for Patriots’ Day and Jackie Robinson Day, for fun and families and honoring a proud city’s heritage. Instead, Maddon and the Rays were witnesses to shock for a proud people, shock for a nation.
“We had lost a tough game on that day – it was 3-2, I believe,” Maddon said. “I’m going to the airport, and all that stuff is breaking. Man, if you need perspective or you’re looking for perspective, it’s smacking you all over the place on that bus ride regarding what had happened.”
On a normal day, baseball would have occupied Maddon’s mind on that ride. That afternoon, the Rays had lost their third consecutive game to the Red Sox, as part of what became a 2-7 road trip. Tampa Bay had tied the score at 2 in the top of the ninth inning, after Ben Zobrist’s single to left field. But Mike Napoli’s game-ending double in the ninth, which scored Dustin Pedroia from first base, ended the comeback bid before a charged home crowd.
The game ended about 40 minutes before the bombs detonated near the finish line. Smoke and screams lifted close to Copley Square, about a mile from Fenway Park.
Maddon learned of the events from a Rays staff member on the walk to a bus before leaving for the airport. That night, Tampa Bay was scheduled to arrive in Baltimore prior to a three-game series with the Orioles. A routine turned to a time for reflection.
“I’d like to believe that I tried to keep this whole thing in perspective all the time,” Maddon said. “We’re playing a game. It’s a baseball game.
“Let’s get our country on the right page in regards to hopefully finding the answers to all these difficult problems that are arising way too often recently. I have a different outlook sometimes. I think I do see the big picture. So losing 3-2 is not very good in a baseball sense. Having bombs blow up at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, that’s pretty substantial.”
On Friday, a moment of silence was held at Tropicana Field. Maddon stood above his dugout, his right hand holding a blue cap over his heart.
The national anthem sounded. There were cheers. Another game was played. Life carried on.
Perspective, and heavy hearts, were present with all.