By Curtis Driscoll
Bud Maddux, Manager of the 2017 Southwest Region Champions, may be in his first year of Little League® coaching, but he isn't a naive new coach. The 68-year-old Lufkin native has been coaching youth baseball for the past 41 years in Lufkin, Texas, and now finds his team confidently charging toward a World Series title.
Mr. Maddux first began coaching when fall and winter ball weren’t even ideas, and opposing coaches told players that pitching and hitting machines could mess them up. After seeing all the changes to youth baseball, he no longer worries about adjusting to leagues or new players.
“They have pitch counts, and they have participation rules you have to follow,” said Mr. Maddux. “It’s just different things, but at the end, it’s all baseball, and that’s what you have got to instill in them, it’s all baseball.”
For Mr. Maddux, baseball is about teaching fundamental life lessons beyond the field. He focuses on making players better people, by grooming them to be more disciplined, and responsible for themselves and the team. Lateness is a no-no and forgetting your equipment means sprinting up hills (at Williamsport) or running around the baseball field.
Mr. Maddux credits the team with embracing his standards and using those lessons to propel them to this point in the tournament, 2-0, and a game looming on Wednesday with the 2-0 Southeast Region Champion North State Little League of Greenville, N.C. for a chance to play in the United States Championship game.
“If they are not accountable, they are not gonna have any discipline. Once they accept that [accountability], the discipline will follow,” said Mr. Maddux. “These boys came out and have worked really hard this summer, and accepted everything that we put before them. That’s why they are successful right now.”
Mr. Maddux ran a retail building material business with his brothers from 1974 to 2009 before his nephews and nieces took over daily operation. He admitted he was never a great baseball player, but he loved the game and wanted to be involved with it after playing.
His long coaching career has included six youth baseball championships, and many of his former players have contacted him to say how proud they are of his team and that they are watching. He even had a player from his 1977 team reach out and thank him for teaching him the discipline he would use later in life.
Although he has high expectations and expects the best out of the team, he still shows a lighter side to his players.
“He’s honestly funny; he jokes around with us a lot,” said Blake Slaga, an infielder, and pitcher for Lufkin Little League. “He jokes with some of the players about how they act and stuff.”
For the team, the next game is just another step in the journey that started with two-a-day practices in the summer. “They didn't just come here to be satisfied being here,” Mr. Maddux said. “They want to keep on going for the ultimate, which is the championship.”