Cubs’ Joe Maddon on hometown flap: ‘I have nothing to apologize for’

SAN FRANCISCO — Cubs manager Joe Maddon isn’t apologizing for anything.

At least not when it comes to the demand for an apology from a newspaper near his hometown of Hazleton, Pennsylvania, that criticized him for an out-of-context comment during a lengthy interview with NBC’s Harry Smith that aired two weeks ago.

‘‘If you watched the show in its entirety, it’s a really positive piece, and I think the message is 99.9 percent positive,’’ said Maddon, whose effort to bridge differences between Hazleton’s most recent immigrants and longer-term residents was the focus of the feature. ‘‘For those that misinterpreted the comments, I can’t even say I apologize for that because there’s no ill intent involved.’’

The quote at the center of the editorial that appeared Tuesday in the Times Leader of Wilkes-Barre was about Maddon’s assertion that the Hispanic influx in Hazleton is ‘‘going to save our town.’’

Cubs manager Joe Maddon during an event in Hazleton, Pa., in December.

He told Smith: ‘‘You have two options right here. Either you get on board and help us as we’re moving this thing along, or you’re going to die. And when you die and go away, then you’re going to get out of the way. You’re not going to be part of the problem anymore. So it’s either help or die.’’

The editorial ripped Maddon for the comments, quoted residents ripping him and, he said, upset his mom, sister and many who work with his Hazleton Integration Project.

‘‘Of course, they took exception to the way I phrased it,’’ he said. ‘‘Eventually, you’re going to die. And when you die, this is going to change. It’s not that I’m wishing death on anybody, but we all have an expiration date. . . . I have nothing to apologize for.

‘‘Without the Hispanic influx that we’ve had in our hometown, our hometown would pretty much have wasted away in the very near future because there’s no business coming in, no cultural involvement. There’s no youth. There’s no family involvement [without] these people who come here, who want to be there and who are really making Hazleton a better place.

‘‘Eventually, in the next 10 or 15 or 20 years, Hazelton’s going to be a beacon of how to do this, meaning how you’re going to assimilate new groups into your area, how they’re going to provide energy, economic benefits and just having the population base that wants to be there. All that stuff is pertinent. For the folks that don’t understand that, I really can’t help that.’’

NOTES: Right-hander Jake Arrieta pitched into the seventh inning Monday to beat the Giants 5-3, but not before giving up Ryder Jones’ first career home run.

‘‘I think that’s the second first career homer I’ve given up this year,’’ he said. ‘‘I might sent him a bottle of champagne or something.’’

The White Sox’ Yoan Moncada hit his first career homer against Arrieta two weeks ago.

• Manager Joe Maddon plans to ‘‘take it easy for a couple of days’’ on Carl Edwards Jr., who was one of the top relievers in the National League in the first half but has struggled since the All-Star break.

‘‘He’s been one of the best young relief pitchers in either league,’’ Maddon said. ‘‘I have not lost any confidence in him.’’

Follow me on Twitter @GDubCub.

Email: gwittenmyer@suntimes.com

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