Opening day in Angel Stadium was also old home week for Chicago Cubs Manager Joe Maddon, who spent 30 years in the Angels’ organization, including 12 years (1994-2005) as a big league coach, before leaving to manage the Tampa Bay Rays in 2006 and the Cubs in 2015.
In the opposing dugout Monday night was Angels Manager Mike Scioscia, a fellow Pennsylvania native of Italian-American heritage who retained Maddon as his bench coach in 2000 and won a World Series with him at his side two years later.
In his media scrum in the visiting dugout before the game was former Angels outfielder and current Fox Sports analyst Tim Salmon, whom Maddon managed in the minor leagues and coached in the big leagues.
And above the right-field bleachers was the retired No. 50 of Jimmie Reese, the beloved former Angels coach who spent 22 years with the club, fungo bat always in hand, before his death at the age of 93 in 1994.
“He was everybody’s best friend, and he treated me so well,” Maddon said of Reese. “There were so many moments where he would put his hands on my shoulders, look me right in the eye and say, ‘You’re the master.’
“He loved the way I coached. He told me that all the time. He said, ‘One day, you’re going to be a big league manager.’ He told me that back in the 1980s.”
Did Maddon believe him?
“I did,” he said. “I just didn’t know when it would happen.”
Not only was Reese right about Maddon, but Maddon has become one of the best and most respected managers in baseball, leading the Rays to the 2008 World Series and the Cubs to a 97-65 record and the National League division series in 2015.
The hype surrounding the club has also put something of a target on the backs of the Cubs, but Maddon doesn’t mind.
“It’s a good thing, it means that we are good,” Maddon said. “I think it should be motivational. I would not want to be picked to finish last and have nothing surrounding us and nobody showing up, playing in front of crowds of 10,000, so I think our guys embrace being a target.”