The buzz was high and fast when Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon showed up at spring training in Port Charlotte in February. And it had nothing to do with the Rays' chances in 2012.
What's with the hair?
It wasn't the first time the free-spirited Maddon shocked with his locks. But this style — longish, wavy and a coffee-colored brown — looked like he was channeling a '50s biker dude, especially when he slipped on his Kaenon sunglasses.
What was his wife thinking?
Not much, it turns out. It should be no surprise that his wife of three years, Jaye, doesn't dictate style or anything else for her mate. And he doesn't for her.
The bicoastal couple who met in Southern California — where Jaye still lives most of the time — are each other's biggest fans. And that comes with an understanding. He does his thing; she does hers. That means he manages the baseball team and she manages their life.
Jaye, 49, is the CFO of the family, the analytical one who raised two sons, got her law degree at age 45 and teaches online courses in criminal justice for the University of Phoenix. She oversees their residences and rentals in Tampa, Southern California and Hazelton, Pa. She makes sure the bills get paid, the fine print in contracts is carefully read, and commitments to multiple charities, community events and family are kept.
And in December, Joe added yet another responsibility to their already hectic lives: comical English bulldog puppy Winston (follow him on Twitter @winstoncmaddon), who joins 8-year-old Great Dane rescue Athena.
"Joseph pulled out all stops on this one," Jaye says, rolling her eyes.
He told her that having a puppy would make them better people. He lavished attention on the new arrival for two months, and then … he left for Port Charlotte. Now it's Jaye in charge of housebreaking, training and arranging sitters when she travels.
"But it's all worked out," Joe insists. "She's the dog whisperer."
Jaye says their arrangement makes it possible for her husband to devote his energies to winning games, something he's been quite successful at since taking over the once-bedeviled Rays in the 2006 season. With a partner handling life's details and schedules off the field, it's easier for Joe to be himself: affable and positive with his players, the media and the public, and one of baseball's most cerebral strategists.
And yes, for the record, she did like that maverick biker look, which Joe shed in mid-March when he and 70 others in the Rays organization had their heads shaved to raise money for pediatric cancer research.
"That's the thing about Joseph," Jaye says, smiling. "It's always a fun ride. You just don't know what will happen next."
They were both married to other people when they met in 1995 at the Rossmoor Athletic Club in Seal Beach, Calif., where Jaye worked in accounting.
It wasn't love at first sight or anything like that, even if Joe admits he was "completely star-struck" when he laid eyes on the petite, dark-haired beauty who is eight years his junior. He liked her calm demeanor and self-confidence. She was brainy and beautiful.
Jaye and her best friend, Erin-lee Anderson, the club manager, immediately took to the longtime Anaheim (now California) Angels bench coach, who occasionally came in to work out. He was easy-going and entertaining. Best of all, he left game tickets for the baseball-crazed women. They all became fast friends, even if they only saw Joe a few times a year.
Friendship blossomed into romance years later after their marriages broke up. The two had a lot in common: They were geeks about fast cars, sports and high-tech toys. It was kismet. Here was a woman whose first car was a dark gold 1968 Camaro, no less. Joe loved that she was as comfortable with her femininity as she was hunkered down in a man cave with a cold one and a game on the big screen. It was easy hanging out together.
"I never guessed they would eventually end up together," says Anderson, now an independent casting producer. "But knowing the both of them, it makes sense. They're both down-to-earth people with a beautiful zest for life. All the success they've had hasn't changed them at all.
"I would say they are perfectly matched."
Each is deeply rooted in family. Besides their extended clans, Jaye has two boys and Joe has a son and daughter. They have the same priorities. Though Jaye is more subdued, she was charmed by Joe's quirkiness.
"She's got a great laugh. And I can make her laugh, which is very important," Joe says. "We always have a blast."
Like a lot of professional couples who get together midlife, they had some balancing issues. Joe's team was World Series-bound, winning it all in October 2002. Jaye, meanwhile, was buried in textbooks. After years of juggling motherhood, working several jobs and attending night school to earn her bachelor's degree, the goal-oriented woman wasn't through yet. She started law school at 41.
She was in her second year at Western State University when she and Joe began dating. Jaye knew things were getting serious when he took her home to Hazelton to meet his family and see the old neighborhoods he roamed with his sister and brother. He shared stories of his grandfather, an Italian immigrant who worked in the local coal mines, and his late father, a plumber. She met his Polish mother, Beanie, 79, who has been working at the Third Base Luncheonette since 1948.
If there was one thing that could capture Jaye's heart, it was a man who embraced his roots. That meant something to her.
She grew up a tomboy in a boisterous home in Fullerton, Calif., the fifth of Ted and Eileen Sousoures' six children. She played second base for the town's Bobby Sox league and tinkered with cars. Like the Maddons, the clan didn't have much money — they had to scrimp to send the kids to Catholic schools — but they had plenty of love. Her parents instilled values of hard work, independence, good humor and loyalty.
"Maybe that's what attracted me to Joseph," she says. "He had all those qualities. He felt like home."
All the baseball travel, school studies and family obligations could easily torpedo a relationship, so they had a two-week rule. No matter what, they would carve out time for each other at least twice a month in their Southern California base.
What they hadn't counted on was Joe's being wooed for the Rays job in November 2005. Even before an offer was on the table, he told them he needed to schedule some time off to attend his girlfriend's graduation from law school the next May. No problem, they told him.
But there went the rule.
"I said, 'Dude, could you move any farther away than that?' But this was Joe's dream, and it had such potential," she says.
So they made another pact. We're going to be a bicoastal couple, they declared, and we're going to do it better than any other couple in the history of baseball.
She thinks they're doing a good job so far. During the season, they squeeze in at least a week together every month, either at their Mediterranean two-story home in South Tampa or on the road. They talk every morning and every night, with maybe a text or two during the day. She gets that being married to a baseball guy means sacrifice. A sign in the kitchen says it all: We interrupt this family to bring you this baseball season.
When Jaye's in California, she has DirecTV and MLB.com. Technology allows her to watch her husband make his moves from thousands of miles away. That includes when he uncharacteristically loses his cool and argues with the umps.
"I'm always thinking, 'Whoa, babe, be careful. This is gonna cost you some money!' But how about the time he actually threw out the umpires?" she says. "I was laughing hysterically!"
And, she says, dropping her voice, "To be honest, it made me kind of hot. You go, Joseph!"
Unconventional is the best word to describe Joe Maddon's management style.
There are the themed road trips — Jaye's favorite was the overnight flight out West when everybody wore pajamas on the plane — and motivating his players with quotes from Dr. Seuss to French philosopher Albert Camus. While Boston Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine famously put the kibosh on any alcohol consumption in the clubhouse, Joe enjoys a glass of a fine Spanish red in post-game interviews with the media. Ever since Jaye introduced him to wine, that's his beverage of choice.
He doesn't lock himself in an office to work on equations and devise some of those rather unusual on-field chess moves he makes from the dugout. Instead, his best ideas come when he straps on his helmet and hits the road on his racing bike. He cycles as much as 100 miles a week. (Jaye's bike has a basket on it, signaling it's mainly used for pleasure cruising.)
As solid and dependable a person as he is, she says, "You learn to expect the unexpected with Joseph."
In June 2007, she met him in Denver, where the team had an interleague series with the Colorado Rockies. Though it was late, Joe said he wanted to take her on a road trip to Boulder, where he played semipro ball for Bauldie Moschetti's Boulder Collegians in the mid-1970s. Show her his favorite haunts, take in some of those great memories.
In the dark, he couldn't find Scotty Carpenter Field, the old ballpark where the team played. So after a meal of burgers, fries and beer at his old hangout, the Dark Horse, he headed over to Moschetti's store, Baseline Liquors, where cash-strapped players such as Joe would work to help pay the bills.
On bended knee in the parking lot, Joe proposed to his future bride. It was 1:30 a.m.
Moschetti died in 1994. Bill Singh, who now owns the store, says the legendary coach and general manager would have loved that Joe declared his everlasting love to Jaye in such a sentimental location.
The next year would be the roller-coaster ride of a lifetime for the couple, with the death of Jaye's mom and the improbable road to the World Series. Two weeks after the Rays lost in five games to the Philadelphia Phillies, they married in a small ceremony at Jaye's family church, St. Julianna Catholic Church in Fullerton, followed by a big shindig on the Queen Mary in Long Beach.
Though the wedding photos and the two-week European honeymoon — her first trip there — suggest a fairy tale, Jaye knows that's not the case. Commuter marriages and blended families require a lot of give and take. Her eldest son, Ryan, 25, works and lives near the Maddons' 1928 Spanish bungalow in the charming Belmont Shores neighborhood in Long Beach; Dylan, 18, graduates from high school next month. Joe's grown kids, Sarah and Joey, and his two grandchildren are in the Phoenix area.
Some people don't understand why she doesn't live full time in Tampa. Besides wanting to be near her sons, she has a brother with brain damage who lives in a convalescent home about a half-hour away. Since their father's death a year ago, the Sousoures siblings are responsible for overseeing his care.
"Jaye and Joe's (California) place is the home base for us now," says older sister Terry Sousoures, a flight attendant for United Airlines. "With both our parents gone, we needed a gathering place. And Jaye stepped right into that role."
Sousoures has a lot of respect for her sister, who overcame the odds to finish her schooling and raise her sons. She admits she was a little surprised when Jaye started bringing Joe around. Who's this old guy? Sousoures thought. Turns out, the white hair was deceiving.
"Jaye has always looked way younger than her years. So they're a lot closer in age than people might think," she says. "I don't think this would have worked when Jaye was in her 20s. Having experience and wisdom makes her a much better partner for him now. They really complement each other."
Joe is known as the impetuous one who makes decisions without thinking them through (remember Winston?). Jaye is on the opposite end of the spectrum, considering all options first. An avid chef, the kitchen is Joe's territory; she only cooks if there's a blender involved.
The one area where they are in complete harmony is their shared zeal for cars. Their collection keeps growing. There's Aunt Hen, a '67 Ford Galaxy 500 convertible named for Maddon's late Aunt Henrietta; Babalou, the '72 Chevelle named for one of his mentors; Gwelda, Jaye's 911 4S Porsche (it's her mom's middle name); and Bella, the family's newest addition, a '56 Chevy Bel Air, complete with fuzzy dice and a bobbing hula girl.
"Bella just means beautiful," Jaye says. "I said enough already. We had to quit naming all our cars after dead people."
Joe is the spotlight guy. It comes with the job. He's comfortable with the television cameras. With his funky eyewear and talked-about hairstyles, he's recognized most everywhere he goes in the Tampa Bay area.
Jaye, on the other hand, prefers anonymity.
She can do without social events, unless they contribute to a good cause. For the past two years, she’s worked with the PACE Center, a nonresidential counseling and education program for girls ages 12 to 18 who are at risk of dropping out of school or getting into trouble. Executive director Sally Zeh says Jaye led a drive to collect school supplies, donates clothing to "Beth’s Closet," a dress-for-success initiative, and brought some of the girls to a ballgame, where they went on a shopping spree in the team shop.
What impresses Zeh is Jaye's sweet nature and how humble she is. Once she called the center and said, "Hi. I'm Jaye Maddon, Joe's wife from the Rays. I'm not sure if you remember me."
"Of course we remember her. She has gone above and beyond to help us here. And the lesson the kids are getting is that strangers are willing to love them and help them better their lives. The girls are hungry for that kind of encouragement," Zeh says.
Angelica Craig is one of them. Now 19 and living in a residential facility, she keeps a picture taken of her and Jaye at a Rays game. The two keep in touch by phone, with Jaye encouraging her to finish school and stay focused on her goals. Craig wants to be a chef one day, and she was invited to help cook at the Maddons' Thanksmas charity dinner, which feeds hundreds of needy people in the Tampa Bay area every year.
"She's been an inspiration to me," Craig says. "She makes me feel special, which is something I haven't always felt."
When the Maddons go out to dinner in the Tampa area, well-meaning fans stop by their table for autographs or to chat. She knows that comes with the territory in being married to a local celebrity. At Cook's Kitchen, one of their favorite neighborhood spots for homemade soup and salad, Sally Cook instructs her staff: Don't stare and don't bother them. Treat them like all the other customers.
"They're just the nicest people," says the British chef. "Perfectly charming, really. And both of them are quite arresting-looking."
In Belmont Shores, with her partner on the road, Jaye walks the streets with Winston and eats at her favorite raw-foods restaurants without interruptions. For several months, hairstylist Shelby Buckley listened to Jaye talk about her husband, Joseph, who lived in Florida.
Finally she had to ask: Why are you married to some guy who lives across the country?
"So she says his name is Joe Maddon, and he's the manager of the Rays," Buckley says. "I tell my brother, a huge Angels fan, and he goes nuts. She was just so matter-of-fact about it."
Now that she's met Joe — and fixed one of his bad do-it-yourself dye jobs — Buckley understands their arrangement and why it works.
"They're living in this world, and they're real. They make the most of every day," she says. "I love their spirit and the energy they give out. And all the work they do in the community shows what remarkable human beings they are."
Joe says no one has to tell him he's a lucky guy. Meeting Jaye, and convincing her that marrying him was a fine idea, is the best thing that ever happened to him. Even better than that 2002 World Series win with the Angels.
Says Joe: "I'm way over my skis with her. Sometimes, you just hit gold."