Sunday, January 4, 2015

Interview Part 1: Morris Madden, Didn't Quit

Morris Madden made his major league debut at Tiger Stadium in 1987. Shown is Tiger Stadium in 2006. (Greatest 21 Days)
Part 1: Didn't Quit | Part 2: Very Exciting
Part 3: Was There | Part 4: His Calling

Morris Madden was deep into his professional career, but he seemingly had little to show for it.

He was in his seventh professional season in 1985 with only brief looks at AA. He was also ready to just turn in his uniform and move on.

"I called my dad and told him I was about ready to come home," Madden told The Greatest 21 Days recently. "This is not for me."

Madden talked to his father. He also talked to his wife. The message from both, he recalled: Don't quit.

"He and my wife were instrumental in telling me, 'Listen, you don't quit,'" Madden recalled. "'One thing you don't do is quit. You've never quit before. There's no use to you starting it now.'

"They told me 'Just hang in there and see what happens,'" Madden said. "So I did."

Two seasons later, Madden's perseverance paid off as he walked into Detroit's Tiger Stadium as a member of the Detroit Tigers.

It paid off with trips to the majors in three separate seasons.

Madden spoke to The Greatest 21 Days by phone recently from his home in Charlotte, N.C., where he now heads up a youth baseball program. That program, Carolinas Metro Inc., has become Madden's passion, helping kids succeed in life.
Morris Madden, standing right, talks to a group of kids in Charlotte. Madden now coaches youth and helps get them on the right path in life. (Photo Provided)

Madden covered his own career, from growing up in South Carolina to playing in college and the pros, including the time he spent in the majors.

Madden ended up with a total of 16 major league appearances over those three seasons, seeing time with both the Detroit Tigers and the Pittsburgh Pirates. In one of those seasons, he saw just 5.2 innings of work, but he didn't give up a run.

Madden grew up in Laurens, S.C. He recalled starting to play baseball when he was 9. Madden recalled playing early on with one of his older brothers. "He and I just loved to play baseball," Madden recalled.

By the time he was 14, he was on his high school's varsity team.

From playing with his brother to making the varsity team, Madden played ball with the older kids. It helped his game, he recalled

"I learned to really set my goals high when I played against the older guys," Madden said.
Knights Stadium, home to the Charlotte Knights, in 2012. Morris Madden grew up in South Carolina and has since settled in Charlotte. (Greatest 21 Days)
He played some first base and some outfield. He also pitched. Pitching is where he stayed. Pitching was the position the left-hander said that he learned to love.

Madden played well in high school, but he didn't recall being scouted. He actually didn't even recall thinking about the pros. That didn't come until college.

"I didn't really have any plans of pursuing playing professionally," Madden said. "It just came to me."

It came to him at Spartanburg Methodist College.

Madden recalled first getting encouragement from a high school friend who was drafted directly out of Laurens. The friend would call and tell Madden that Madden was good enough to play as a pro. 

At Spartanburg Methodist, Madden played for coach Lon Joyce. He called Joyce instrumental in his later professional career. Joyce continued to give Madden guidance after Madden turned pro.

Under Joyce, Madden quickly got noticed. He actually got noticed by the scout who eventually drafted him, Tommy Mixon, when Mixon come to see another player.
Morris Madden was drafted by the Dodgers and later played at Dodger Stadium. He played there in 1989 with the visiting Pirates. (Greatest 21 Days)
"I just happened to be playing that day and he started following me after that," Madden said. "It was by chance that I got an opportunity like that."

The Reds and the Brewers also expressed interest. When Joyce told him, Madden didn't know what to think.

"I never really thought about it like that," Madden said. "Once I did, I had a conversation with my parents."

Their response: It might be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. But they left the decision with their son.

"It's up to you," Madden recalled his father Nathaniel Madden telling him. "But, if you're going to do it, you've got to do it 100 percent."

The opportunity came in the 1979 June draft. The Dodgers took Madden in the 24th round. After just one season in college, Madden decided to turn pro.

Soon, the South Carolina native was on his way to Lethbridge, Alberta, and the rookie Pioneer League to start his professional career. (Part 2)

Part 1: Didn't Quit | Part 2: Very Exciting
Part 3: Was There | Part 4: His Calling

Go to Part 2: Morris Madden, Very Exciting

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