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10/24/08 10:00 AM ET

Fall Classic brings Maddon home

Skipper could clinch World Series not far from where he grew up

ST. PETERSBURG -- Rays manager Joe Maddon never stated his preference while the League Championship Series ran their courses, since he needed to focus on ways for his club to beat the defending World Series champion Red Sox.

However, somewhere in the back of Maddon's mind, a dream scenario lived. If somehow the Phillies and the Rays both reached the World Series, fate would place him 87.6 miles southeast of his heart -- Hazleton, Pa.

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Maddon's face never stops glowing when he talks about his hometown. Whenever Maddon starts talking about home, he rambles on in detail about friends, escapades that transpired, and family.

"I think if you grew up where I grew up and when I grew up, the one word that comes to mind is respect," Maddon said. "That's the one thing that's pounded into you between a Polish mother and Italian father and nuns through the eighth grade. You definitely learn respect at an early age. And I think that permeates everything else that happens. If you learn respect as a youngster, I think that benefits you in everything you do as you're growing up."

Maddon's late father, Joe, was a plumber and a man not prone to anger. He died in 2002, and it's not rare to see Maddon's eyes go moist when talking of what a special man his father was and how everyone loved him. His mother, Beanie, is 75, and still works at The Third Base Luncheonette, a local establishment opened in 1949 by Maddon's aunt and uncle. When Maddon speaks of his mother, a twinkle comes to his eye and one gets the idea she is somewhat of a sport.

Both parents influenced Maddon greatly, but growing up in a town the size of Hazleton -- where everyone is a neighbor -- had a great deal to do with who he is today.

"The thing that I think is underestimated is when you grow up in a community like that and coming from a large family like I did, you truly were raised by more than your mother and father," Maddon said. "If my uncle saw me getting out of line, I was smacked in a heartbeat. So talk about respect, to get out of line was very difficult, because you were covered everywhere you went.

"And the last point I'll make and I'll shut up, is that I really think that growing up at that time in that location, you can't have more fun as a kid than I did. And because of all those reasons I'm presenting to you -- the parenting and the support that you got from the entire community -- I think was unique. I don't know if that happens as often today as maybe it did back then. So I'm very proud to be where I'm from, and that's why I think I turned out OK."

"I'm so happy for them that they're all really enjoying this. It's great for the area. "
-- Joe Maddon

Now that Maddon has attained a higher profile in the media, a lot is being written and said about Hazleton these days, which pleases the Rays skipper.

"I'm so happy for them that they're all really enjoying this," Maddon said. "It's great for the area. The area really needed a boost -- when you talk about the economics we've gone through back home for a while. So it's good to get something positive going on. So I'm really happy for them."

Maddon is excited about the group making the pilgrimage from Hazleton to Philadelphia for Game 3. Throughout his days as manager of the Rays, those around the team have grown used to seeing Hazelton contingents show up when the club has played in Baltimore, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Normally said contingents come bearing gifts, such as the coveted hoagies from The Third Base.

Maddon has 14 tickets set aside for family and friends Saturday. When asked how hard it is for "a manager to do the ticket thing" when procuring prized World Series ducats, Maddon smiled.

"It's not as hard as it is for maybe a bullpen catcher," he said. "Part of it is I don't want to take advantage of other people's attempts to get tickets, also. I think 14 or 15 are plenty."

But there will be more than 14 or 15 traveling from Hazelton to Philadelphia to watch Hazelton's favorite son manage in the World Series. Reporters joked with Maddon about who would guard the town while everyone was away.

"Louie Barletta, the mayor," Maddon said. "But I think he's going to the game."

Maddon paused and smiled.

"If it's not Louie, Otis, from Mayberry," said Maddon.

Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.