How Joe Maddon is helping immigrants feel at home in his hometown

Mark TownsendYahoo Sports Contributor
Big League Stew
Cubs manager Joe Maddon is hoping to ease tension for immigrants in his Pennsylvania hometown. (AP)
Cubs manager Joe Maddon is hoping to ease tension for immigrants in his Pennsylvania hometown. (AP)

Every year, Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon returns to his hometown of Hazleton, PA. during the holiday season with a clear mission. This year was no different as Maddon and his wife, Jaye, continued their efforts to ease tensions between longtime residents and immigrants who have recently moved into the area.

According to the Chicago Sun Times, CNN political analyst David Axelrod witnessed the Maddon’s efforts firsthand this year and raved about the Hazleton Integration Project, which the couple started in 2011 with the goal of making immigrants feel more welcomed.

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“I just got back from Hazleton and saw the amazing work Joe and his wife, Jaye, are doing in his hometown,” Axelrod told the Sun Times’ Michael Sneed. “The town has seen rapid demographic changes with a heavy influx of Dominican immigrants, and Joe has been really concerned about all the animus being whipped up about immigration. So he decided to help by launching the Hazleton Integration Project, to welcome the immigrant community and ease tensions in town.”

Maddon’s return is always the kickoff of a big weekend filled with fundraisers for the project. Last year, he even brought along friend, comedian and world-renowned Cubs’ fan Bill Murray to meet and mingle with members of the community.

Last year also marked a big step in Maddon’s project as the organization broke ground on a $250,000 playground project that was fully funded by Hazleton Creek Properties founder William Rinaldi. The playground accompanies the Hazleton One Community Center, which was created to help unite the many diverse cultures that now populate Hazleton under one roof.

Why does Maddon care so much? Axelrod explains based on his interaction with the Cubs skipper.

“Joe, who already helped build a new community center there, said he wants to help because he relates to their problems. Joe is half-Polish and half-Italian, and he told me: “I go into homes and these families are just like mine was growing up. We ought to be embracing them and appreciating what diversity brings to the community.”

We can disagree with Maddon over his managerial strategies and even some of his political opinions, but the work he’s doing in Hazleton should be applauded.

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Mark Townsend is a writer for Yahoo Sports Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!

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