Hot Stove: Maddon to prepare pasta at Fan Fest

BY foxsports • February 3, 2011


Feb. 3,

It's not hard to see that Rays manager Joe Maddon has what it takes to lead a major league team.

He's got the smarts to implement a first-class game plan, the influence to get the most out of his players, the charisma to be a media darling and the temperament to keep the clubhouse in line.

But the real question surrounding the sixth-year manager as pitchers and catchers prepare to report has nothing to do with his skills on the field or in the dugout. No, there are far more important quandaries burning in the bellies of fans around the state:

Can he cook a meatball? How tender does he like his pasta? Oh, and how does he look in an apron?

Fans, players and the media alike will all find out at the Rays' annual Fan Fest, which is being held Feb. 19 at Tropicana Field.  Because as part of the event -- which gives fans an opportunity to interact with players and coaches, as well as radio and TV personalities, before the season -- Maddon will serve up his traditional "Thanksmas" meal.

A limited number of fans, for a cost of $30 in advance, will have the opportunity to converse with Maddon over a plate of spaghetti, meatballs, sausage and pierogies cooked by the snow-topped manager.

Maddon doesn't claim to be a gourmet chef, but something tells me that the man known as Merlot Joe can work his way around a kitchen.

As the manager of a professional baseball team, Maddon could probably find a million things to do with his time. With a long, tiring, 162-game schedule ahead of him, nobody would fault him if he just wanted to take a load off at home and savor the few remaining days before the grind starts up again.

But that's not his style, and that's why he's so beloved among the Rays' fans. It's downright refreshing to see a manager who is so excited and so passionate about interacting with fans and serving the community.

Maddon started the Thanksmas project in 2006 with the goal of bringing awareness to the estimated 24,000 homeless people in Pinellas, Hillsborough and Pasco Counties.

Since 2006, Maddon has served more than 4,000 personally prepared meals to benefit needy Floridians, most recently Dec. 14.

"It means a lot to shake their hands and look into their faces," Maddon said to the St. Pete Times. "They are not invisible. They are human beings."

Maddon feels particularly passionate about looking out for homeless children.

"You can think what you want about homeless males or females of a certain age," he told the paper in 2008. "I know people can be judgmental that way. But when you see kids? How do you not feel that? This isn't their choice. This is the life they were given."

Proceeds from the Fan Fest event will go to the Salvation Army Centers in St. Petersburg, Tampa and Bradenton as well as the Rays Baseball Foundation.

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