Rangers ready to revel in Hall call for Maddux
Texas players, pitching coach brother praise former hurler, now special assistant
ARLINGTON -- Greg Maddux never pitched for the Rangers during his 23-year Major League career. But it will still be a big moment for the club on Wednesday when the 2014 Hall of Fame election results are announced.
Maddux, who is entering his third season as a Rangers special assistant, is expected to be overwhelmingly elected into the Hall and be inducted on July 27 in Cooperstown.
"It will mean a lot to all of us as a pitching staff," Rangers pitcher Matt Harrison said Tuesday. "We have been able to get to know him, and when you get to know somebody personally like that, you come to realize who they are and what they stand for.
"You couldn't ask for a better pitcher to get this honor. It's the ultimate honor, and it's not like they're giving it to some guy you don't like or can't talk to. This is a guy who has done a lot in the game and he's trying to pass it on to others. I'm happy for him and I hope we have him around for a long time."
The Hall of Fame results will be announced exclusively on MLB Network and simulcast on MLB.com live on Wednesday at 1 p.m. CT as part of a three-hour live show beginning at 11 a.m. On Thursday, MLB.com and MLB Network will air the news conferences featuring the electees live from New York at 10 a.m. CT.
"It's awesome," pitcher Derek Holland said. "This is a guy I grew up watching. He was on the Atlanta Braves and they were my favorite team. I watched them all the time. He had a great career and is somebody we can really look up to and relate to -- the perfect role model, a guy who always got the job done."
Maddux came to work with the Rangers at the behest of his older brother Mike, who is entering his seventh season as their Major League pitching coach. On the eve of the announcement, Mike Maddux didn't seem too concerned about his brother being elected on his first try.
Maybe older brother feels that way considering Greg won 355 games in his career, four Cy Young Awards, four ERA titles and 18 Gold Glove Awards.
"I feel at ease about it," Mike Maddux said Tuesday. "Yeah, as far as Greg's election, or should we say his foreseeable election, it's somewhat of a given based on his track record. As far as anticipation or nervousness, I don't think that's really a question.
"I guess there is going to be some anticipation, but having followed his Major League career and his track record, there is nobody who parallels him. We're talking about one of the greatest pitchers ever, if not the greatest living pitcher."
Greg Maddux, who lives in Las Vegas with his wife, Kathy, and two children, does not work for the Rangers full-time. But it is far from a ceremonial post.
Maddux spends all of Spring Training with the Rangers, and then makes about 6-7 trips to various Minor League affiliates during the season. He will also attend Instructional League in September and hold classroom "skull" sessions for 15-20 of the Rangers' top prospects to discuss the art of pitching.
"He validates our pitching program, the things we talk about, how we approach pitching. ... The experiences he can share with the staff and the players is phenomenal," said Danny Clark, Texas' Minor League pitching coordinator. "When we walk into a room, guys don't know who we are, but they know who he is. When he says the same things we say, it just backs it up what we are teaching.
"In Spring Training, he obviously spends a lot of time on the Major League side, but he'll come over to the Minor League side and ask, 'What can I help you with?' He always wants to help and is always asking what needs to be done. During games, he'll take pitchers over to Field 4 to work on their fielding. He just likes to do things quietly on the side."
Certainly it is hard to quantify the contributions of any Minor League coach or pitching instructor. But when four of six farm teams finish second in their league in team ERA, and Round Rock finishes fifth in the 14-team Pacific Coast League, that would seem to indicate the Rangers are doing something right.
Clark has had much to do with that success. So have the individual teams' pitching coaches -- pitchers sing the praises of Brad Holman at Round Rock -- and other special instructors like Mark Connor and Keith Comstock, who has been huge in overseeing the rehabilitation program at the Spring Training facility in Surprise, Ariz.
But when a four-time Cy Young Award winner is willing to go to Frisco and help top prospect Luke Jackson with his pitch sequencing or to Round Rock to work with Martin Perez on a self-destructive tendency trying to strike every hitter out, that's a significant asset to any organization's overall pitching program.
"I think he has meant more to us than he knows, or more than he's willing to admit," Mike Maddux said. "It's just his presence. When he says something, guys definitely hear it. He gets your attention because of who he is, and once he has your attention, guys are going to hear what he has to say. Guys are going to listen to him and trust him."
"Probably the best thing he told me was controlling your emotions on the mound and paying attention to what's happening in the at-bat," Harrison said. "If you see hitters moving their feet, it means they may be trying to pull the ball or go the opposite way. Understand what is happening during an at-bat and staying focused. He was the type of guy who didn't control a baseball, he commanded the baseball and commanded every pitch. He didn't throw very hard, but he didn't have to. It was about locating his pitches and changing speeds."
Holland really got a chance to work with Maddux while playing in the World Baseball Classic last spring. Maddux was the pitching coach for Team USA.
"He taught me a lot about the mental side and other pitching aspects of the game," Holland said. "We talked about it's not how hard you throw, but location, mechanics and staying under control. He has taught me a lot too about defense. Every year we've done a lot of work to make me be a better fielding pitcher."
For years, Greg Maddux has been telling many pitchers what they need to hear. On Wednesday, he will get to hear something that should be important to him. Brother Mike and his family live in Texas, so Greg can expect at least one congratulatory phone call sometime Wednesday afternoon.
"I'll give him a call and let him savor the moment," Mike Maddux said. "I will be in communication. The support has always been there since we were kids, so we don't have to say too much. Everybody is proud of him, not so much for his accomplishments, but who he is and how he handles himself, how humble he is.
"He is by far a better person than he ever was as a player, and everybody recognizes what a great teammate he was. People aren't going to remember how many wins he had or how many Gold Gloves he won, but what a great teammate he was."
The Rangers didn't get to see that first-hand when Maddux was a pitcher, but they have now that he is a special assistant in the organization. On Wednesday, he will be recognized as truly special among all that have ever played the game.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.