LOVERRO

The Washington Times Daily - - SPORTS - Thom Loverro hosts his weekly pod­cast “Cigars & Curve­balls” Wed­nes­days avail­able on iTunes and Google Play.

2015, and won it all this sea­son. Now he is in de­mand — heady stuff for a guy from Ha­zle­ton, Penn­syl­va­nia, a for­mer coal min­ing and mob town that has seen bet­ter days, though it is en­joy­ing a re­vival of sorts, in part be­cause it can claim Joe Mad­don as one of its own.

It’s not just that he is the man­ager of the Chicago Cubs. It’s his style — the cere­bral work­ing-class hero, who will gladly share his bold ideas with you over a shot and a beer.

Like the bold idea he shared with me last week — not sit­ting on a bar stool, but at base­ball’s Play Ball event, sur­rounded by kids from 7 to 13 from var­i­ous youth base­ball and softball or­ga­ni­za­tions. The event fea­tured Mad­don, along­side Na­tion­als man­ager Dusty Baker, shar­ing thoughts about youth base­ball with the young play­ers, their par­ents and the Pos­i­tive Coach­ing Al­liance.

The Play Ball ini­tia­tive is part of the ef­fort by Ma­jor League Base­ball and USA Base­ball to get kids more in­ter­ested and in­volved in the game.

Mad­don has an in­trigu­ing idea to do just that.

“I’d like to see fan­tasy base­ball in schools and make it part of math class,” Mad­don told me. “If you brought fan­tasy base­ball into school and brought in tech­nol­ogy such as Skyp­ing, for ex­am­ple. End of Jan­uary, be­gin­ning of Fe­bru­ary, I would Skype a class­room here and talk about team con­struc­tion. Theo Epstein does it a day or two later.

“It leads to a draft day for this group, the kids get to­gether and put to­gether a team. In­cor­pora†te it as part of math class with saber­met­rics on a daily ba­sis.

“At the end of the day you see how your team has done and dur­ing the course of the sea­son you keep up,” he said. “It keeps you in­volved dur­ing the sum­mer and then when you come back, you are set up with a play­off run.

“If you sat down and try to con­struct a method to in­cor­po­rate fan­tasy base­ball in schools, it would at­tract kids that aren’t nec­es­sar­ily base­ball fans but who would be in­ter­ested in the game, un­der­stand­ing strat­egy, maybe the time of the game isn’t so both­er­some any­more. You learn about matchups, shifts, be­cause you are the owner of a fan­tasy base­ball team that you run and set up your lineup daily.”

A gen­er­a­tion of saber­met­ric geeks com­ing through the school sys­tems may not be some­thing I would look for­ward to. But I think Mad­don may be onto some­thing here — at least an idea worth ex­plor­ing, and where bet­ter to do in than in the D.C. schools?

The lo­gis­tics are cer­tainly com­pli­cated, and ques­tions will come up about in­cor­po­rat­ing other fan­tasy sports, such as foot­ball, in the cur­ricu­lum.

But, as base­ball ex­plores ways to en­gage a new gen­er­a­tion of fans, the place to do it may be the class­room and not the ball field.

“I think there are legs there, I re­ally do,” Mad­don said. “To in­cor­po­rate it as part of ed­u­ca­tion, the num­bers in base­ball are so fas­ci­nat­ing, make it part of math class, I think it would be a great first step.

“I’ve put it out there be­fore, but no one has lis­tened.”

They might lis­ten now, Joe. Af­ter lead­ing the Cubs to their first ti­tle since 1908, you’re base­ball’s rock star, a younger ver­sion of Mick Jag­ger, a street fightin’ man.

Base­ball’s rock star was in town last week for the base­ball win­ter meet­ings, and stopped by a youth base­ball event at Gal­laudet Uni­ver­sity.

Kids and adults alike flocked to him, ask­ing for au­to­graphs and photos, and hung on his ev­ery word.

No, I’m not talk­ing about Bryce Harper, who didn’t have the Dis­trict in his date­book last week — not even for his team’s win­ter fes­ti­val for fans.

Joe Mad­don came to spread the gospel of base­ball, and, hav­ing led the Chicago Cubs to their first World Se­ries cham­pi­onship since 1908, peo­ple can’t get enough of the 62-year-old skip­per.

He is an un­likely rock star, toil­ing in the coal mines of base­ball, the mi­nor leagues, for decades and then as a ma­jor league coach for 11 sea­sons. He was the guy on the bench, sit­ting next to the man­ager.

At the age of 52, peo­ple out­side the in­dus­try started notic­ing Joe Mad­don. He was the guy with the thick black glasses who was the lat­est vic­tim man­ag­ing the lowly Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

Ex­cept Mad­don was dif­fer­ent. He had dif­fer­ent ideas, and dif­fer­ent re­sults, lead­ing the Rays to 90-plus win sea­sons and the Amer­i­can League pen­nant in 2008. Heck, the fran­chise even did away with the “Devil” in their name while Mad­don was there.

He went from off Broad­way to the big stage when he be­came man­ager of the Cubs in

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Chicago Cubs man­ager Joe Mad­don said he would “like to see fan­tasy base­ball in schools and make it part of math class.”

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