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Masters of communication: Bochy, Maddon get most out of their players

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Bruce Bochy and Joe Maddon have both mastered the art of communicating with their players. (Marcio Jose Sanchez, Nam y. Huh/AP)
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As the wind rips through AT&T Park on Friday afternoon, Joe Maddon holds court in the visitor’s dugout with his characteristic charm.

The Chicago Cubs skipper lights up when he’s asked about Bruce Bochy — his opposite number.

“He’s a man’s man,” the Cubs manager explained. “You gravitate towards Boch. You like being around Boch.”

With the Wrigley Field-like breeze rolling through the park, it’s too cold for Maddon to wear one of his famous T-shirts — like the one that reads: “Try Not To Suck.” But as he lavishes praise on Bochy, he can’t help but think about those shirts.

“He’s just a classic example of my T-shirt ‘Do Simple Better.’ He’s a great game manager,” Maddon said.

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Maddon and Bochy first crossed paths in the Cal League in 1990. At the time, Bochy was a 35-year-old manager of the Riverside Red Wave — then the High-A affiliate of the San Diego Padres. Maddon, who’s a year older than Bochy, was a roving minor league hitting instructor in the Los Angeles Angels’ chain.

“Players love [Bochy] because there’s no BS,” Maddon said. “It’s the way it is and he’s very bright.”

Maddon is one bright dude too. In his first 200 games with the Cubs, his team has run off a 125-75 record. In 2016, they’ve won more games than any club in baseball and have lost back-to-back contests on just one occasion.

The key for Maddon, who looks like a hipster grandpa with whisks of white hair shooting out from under his hat and wayfarer shades on his face, is that he’s not just the smartest guy in the room, but also the most articulate.

David Ross, the Cubs’ veteran backstop laughs when asked if he’s ever had a boss like Maddon in his 15 years in the bigs.

“Joe is definitely unique in the way he communicates,” Ross said.

Maddon provides a fountain of colorful quotes for his players and for the media alike. But he’s also a master of nonverbal communication.

On a recent roadtrip, the manager donned a pink T-shirt — with a flamingo wearing sunglasses — that read: “If you look hot wear it.”

According to Maddon, that’s the Cubs’ dress code on the road.

“The shirts are not really that shocking,” Ross insisted. “It’s just another cool thing we get in our locker and then wear that day. It’s really more for [the media] than us because we’ve already heard the message. And it’s just kind of a reminder too. Once the shirts are made, it’s just a reminder — as we put it on each day — of what he’s thinking and how to go about our business.”

Bochy doesn’t share Maddon’s exuberant style, but Jeff Samardzija said that the Giants’ manager has plenty of personality.

“He enjoys having fun and getting to know the guys,” Samardzija said. “Hey, he looks to be part of the team — almost like a player. Being a former catcher, he understands how important that chemistry in the clubhouse is.”

Like Maddon, Bochy knows the role communication plays in building a fun-loving and winning club. One trademark of Bochy’s style is that he never publicly criticizes a player — even when doing so would be warranted.

“He’s a very positive guy and he understands this isn’t an easy game,” Samardzija said. “There’s ups and there’s downs and the best thing you can be is positive and understand that going forward you just look to that next day. It doesn’t matter what happened the day before. He really has that day-to-day consistent approach.”

Bochy isn’t likely to start printing his own T-shirts, but Samardzija thinks the manager would consider wearing one of the pink flamingo numbers if prodded.

“Uhh, not on his own,” Samardzija said with a smile.

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