There's a successful balance between the professorial look of Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon and his pop culture references when discussing various facets of baseball.
"If I ever manage a team, I'd love to manage like him," 15-year veteran Cliff Floyd said.
When he has time to relax, the 54-year-old Maddon plays Rolling Stones music in the Rays' clubhouse or makes references to Meat Loaf lyrics.
But well before the Rays reached the American League Championship Series against Boston that starts tonight with Boston's Daisuke Matsuzaka pitching against James Shields, Maddon instilled a winning culture built on accountability that vaulted them out of the AL East cellar in amazing style.
Those building blocks were sculpted at the end of his nondescript four-year, minor-league playing career. That was 1979, when he earned $300 a month commuting 50 miles from Salinas, Calif., to play for an independent Santa Clara team in the Class-A California League with the sole purpose of catching a knuckleball pitcher.
"Oh geez," Maddon said Thursday while recalling that forgettable season. "There was part of that season I was actually living in a big closet.
"I understand the mind-set and desire of a lot of these young players. I know the work they put in to get to a certain level, I understand the desire to get to the major leagues. It's not just for yourself, but for your family and all these people throughout your life. It's a great feeling, a great chase."
After 33 years in professional baseball, Maddon finally is reaping the benefits of a style that touches his organization as well as his closest friends in baseball.
"Joe knows the hard road," said San Diego manager Bud Black, who coached with Maddon on Mike Scioscia's staff with the Los Angeles Angels and remains close with him. "It has enabled him to see the whole game from different points of reference."
After his playing career, Maddon served as a scout and minor-league manager or instructor until 1994, when he joined the Angels' staff as a bullpen coach. He served in various roles with the big club, including interim manager, until the Rays beckoned in 2006.
"He was qualified to manage for a long time," Black said.
Maddon has two children in their 20s, which has helped inform his approach to managing young players. He tries to ensure that his players enjoy the game and accept responsibility. He didn't feel that was the case when he took over in Tampa Bay -- some players were content with merely being major-leaguers and didn't push themselves to maximize their ability.
"It was just way too comfortable, so the first year really was pretty much just evaluation," Maddon said. "Of course, you're trying to win every game, but you're still evaluating what you have and how you want to make changes."
Those changes involved Maddon's "9 over 8" slogan: Nine players going hard for nine innings would result in the Rays becoming one of the eight teams in the playoffs. Also, nine more victories from the offense, nine from the defense and nine from the pitching staff would increase their total to 93, which would put them in playoff contention in the loaded AL East.
The Rays finished with 97 wins -- five more than they would have needed for a wild-card berth.
"[It was] everything that I had been taught and read and believed in. First of all, you have to believe it before you see it," Maddon said. "A lot of people have to see it first. I believe you have to see it in your mind's eye first. So I had to make it believable to these guys."