PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. — Her vision began as most adventures do: A leap of faith. Jaye Maddon, wife of Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon, plotted a move from Long Beach, Calif., to Tampa and wanted to devise a way to take her canine companions along for the ride.
Her initial thought: Why not rent an RV to drive the Maddon’s dogs — Winston, 1, and Athena, 8 – across the country? The strategy, in concept, sounded fine enough — until Jaye found it hard to find anyone willing to lone a vehicle for the nearly 2,700-mile trek.
So an audible: Why not buy an RV? That’s what the Maddons did, in January in California, and a 30-foot Thor Hurricane is primed for Jaye’s journey, which will serve as a fundraiser for Pet Pal Animal Shelter, a no-kill, non-profit facility in St. Petersburg, Fla.
“He’s behind me 100 percent,” Jaye said of Joe. “He goes, ‘I hope you know what you’re doing.’ I said, ‘Well, I kind of don’t know what I’m doing at this point, but it’s going to be fun to have an adventure.’”
In fact, Jaye has things pretty well mapped out. She has commuted between California and Florida for about seven years, so when she decided to relocate to the East Coast, she wanted to move her dogs as well. She knew air travel would be a no-go — she worried about the age of Athena, a Great Dane, and possible restrictions for Winston, an English bulldog — so she searched to make an experience on the open road possible.
Jaye’s schedule looks like this: She leaves Southern California next Tuesday and arrives in the Tampa Bay region either March 25 or 26. For the first night, she has planned a stop in Mesa, Ariz., to visit Joe’s kids. The next day, she’ll continue on Interstate 10 with a probable break in Texas. Along the way, she plans to use dog-friendly hotels, though she likes “there’s an option that we can park somewhere for the night.” Her son Ryan, 26, will accompany her, and another son Dylan, 19, may do so as well.
“Everybody should experience that level of bonding,” Jaye said.
Jaye hasn’t ruled out a repeat trip someday, since the Maddons will keep their California residence as an offseason home.
“It has the potential to do something for a shelter back in California,” Jaye said. “For this time, I’m hoping that people will want to give to this particular shelter because they do such great work. … I have no idea what kind of response I’m going to get, but the main thing is to have fun with it.”
She’ll have fun in style. The RV has a variety of fixtures: a bedroom, a restroom, shower, full kitchen, even DirectTV has been installed.
Jaye and Joe took the vehicle to Arizona in early February for a wedding, after which Jaye thought, “Wow, we’ve been kind of missing out.” Later, Jaye drove her dogs in the RV in Southern California as a short test, and everything checked out fine.
Veterinarians have cleared the pets for the trip. (The dogs’ longest time in a vehicle of any sort is about 30 minutes.) Joe, for his part, is eager for Jaye. He considers Winston and Athena part of the family.
“It’s going to be five, six, seven days of adventure,” he said. “Having Winston and Athena in that 30-footer is going to be interesting for all of them. I love the fact that she’s doing it. It’s for a wonderful cause. She’s such an animal lover. Jaye is totally into the animal situations. I think it’s going to be very interesting to follow her.”
Other dog lovers within the Rays relate to the bond.
“My dogs are companions, as I think they are for everybody,” third baseman Evan Longoria said. “Dogs are happy to see you no matter what.”
“He’s so special, because I feel like he’s always in a good mood,” left-hander David Price said. “He’s always happy.”
“Every time you come home — good or bad outing,” right-hander Alex Cobb said, “he’s your buddy.”
That connection is why Jaye is excited to spend quality time with Winston and Athena. A leap of faith? A road trip to remember.
“I want to have fun,” she said. “I want to get my furry kids there safely.”