Our Pledge To You

Cubs

As Cubs, MLB honor shooting victims, inspired Joe Maddon touts power of activism

MARYVALE, Ariz. — Whether it’s his tendency at times to binge-consume news or the fact that one of the nation’s biggest news stories of the moment has hit so close to home for the Cubs, manager Joe Maddon has become absorbed in the events related to the Feb. 14 mass shooting at Anthony Rizzo’s high school in Florida.

“Anything I can do — I want it out there,” Maddon said. “Either from me personally, the Respect 90 fund, I don’t know. We need to come together and create some answers.”

RELATED STORIES
Cubs infielder Javy Baez going for Gold (Glove) this season
Brewers 2, Cubs 1: Game highlights and notes

On Friday, as the Cubs and Brewers opened their exhibition seasons wearing the Stoneman Douglas High caps to honor the victims, Maddon became increasingly emphatic as he talked about the inspiration provided by the sudden rise of activism by the Douglas students, which seemed to fire him up about the behavior of his own generation.

Maddon

A child of the 1960s who came of age in the early ’70s, Maddon recalled the war protests and anti-
establishment activism of his youth.

“You would think that the group that did that would understand by the time you grew up and became the establishment that you would understand how to interact better,” he said.

“I’m always disappointed. I know what the thought process was like back then — that everybody was going to change the world and make it a better place — and then you forget.”

The Cubs have found themselves inextricably connected to the issue — whether framed as school safety, gun regulation or simply pain and outrage — through Rizzo’s strong, personal stake. He returned to his Parkland, Florida, hometown last week, spoke at a candlelight vigil, visited victims in the hospital and spent time with friends directly impacted.

“It’s unfortunate that the city’s getting so much recognition for this reason,” said Rizzo, who figures to be a focus of fans Saturday when he makes his spring debut — wearing his high school’s cap — during the Cubs’ home exhibition opener. “It’s just a big-time subject. Everyone has come out of the woodwork to show their love and show their support for the community that I live in, the school, the kids. . . . It’s much appreciated.”

Flags at the Brewers’ ballpark flew at half-staff Friday.

As much as Rizzo’s voice during that emotional speech last week seemed to resonate, the current students at the school have taken their voices to another level, speaking, marching and challenging the president, senators and Florida state lawmakers to enact more gun regulation.

“It’s our future. It’s our youth. It’s [whom] this country is going to be run [by] in years to come,” Rizzo said. “Whether it’s fighting for this or that, there’s people who have voices, and when a lot of people come together, it’s amazing the power they have.”

“I love the activism,” said Maddon. “I hope the kids stay after it.”

This activism is focused on the kind of gun laws that might have prevented the shooter from having the AR-15 assault rifle he used to kill 17 people.

Maddon, who last week questioned why anyone should be able to buy a gun like that, stopped short on Friday of explicitly advocating gun control.

But he clearly has been moved by the voices from Parkland, and  he ripped the country’s “so-called leaders.”

“I’m a father and a grandfather,” Maddon said. “So when you see that all occur, and I see the pleas by dads actually in the White House — might have been the same room we stood in not too long ago — I was so happy with his directness and his passion. That needs to happen more often.”

Maddon was referring to Andrew Pollack, the father of one of the victims, who this week spoke angrily to President Trump during a meeting with victims’ families.

“These so-called leaders in charge — I’m not talking about necessarily in Washington,” Maddon said. “At some point we’ve got to re-establish sensibility and common sense. I think that’s escaped us a bit. . . .

“And regardless of political parties — that doesn’t matter. Just do what’s right. Just do the common-sense thing.”

Follow me on Twitter @GDubCub.

Email: gwittenmyer@suntimes.com