GARY | Craig Maddox wasn’t in the lineup for Monday’s rain-delayed RailCats game.
He’d certainly earned it. He’s been platooning at catcher and serving as a frequent first baseman or designated hitter, usually batting cleanup.
Nonetheless, as the team prepared to open a series with Kansas City as part of an ongoing franchise-record 11-game homestand, Maddox, in great shape thanks to an offseason job with CrossFit workouts, was just as ready as his teammates.
Earlier in his career the sixth-year pro might have checked out mentally once he didn’t see his name in the lineup. His maturity and his place on the opportunistic RailCats’ roster have changed that.
“The older I’ve gotten and the more experienced I’ve become, you prepare like you’re going to play every game,” said Maddox, who’ll likely start today’s noon game. “For me, I want to make sure I’m watching their lineup and their guys in case I have to get behind the plate in the eighth or ninth inning. Even though you’re not in the lineup, you’re still in the game.”
Maddox is supposed to be splitting time at catcher with Ryan Babineau, but due to Babineau’s disabled list stint earlier this month and needs arising at first base and designated hitter, Maddox has played in 30 of 35 games, with 26 starts.
A certified trainer since 2010 in the art of CrossFit, a high-intensity group or individual exercise program, Maddox works in the offseason at Cross Fit Pulse in McDonough, Ga.
His girlfriend lives in Georgia with their two adopted pit bulls. The Atlanta-area native is always focused on improving, but on a true off day, even though he’ll go spend a few hours at the park to keep in the swing of baseball, he’ll talk on FaceTime with her and the dogs.
“I miss them more than anything else about Georgia,” Maddox said.
Maddox and Babineau room together on the road, and when the other needs time to get ready and can’t go warm up the pitcher, the non-starter usually obliges.
“I’ve got a situation that I absolutely love, having two guys who we can trust to throw in there,” RailCats manager Greg Tagert said. “Every catcher wants to be an everyday guy, but these two have a great relationship.”
Maddox entered Monday’s game tied for the team lead with two home runs, third on the team in runs (21), third in doubles (6) and sixth in hits (24). As the cleanup hitter he is batting a less-than-ideal .240, but his on-base percentage is .355.
He’s been damaging as a pinch-hitter throughout his career, and he only started playing catcher later in his career at National Christian College Athletic Association Division II school Southeastern University in Florida after mostly playing outfield and first base. Maddox was NCCAA player of the year in 2007 after leading Southeastern to back-to-back Division II titles.
After spending time in the Detroit Tigers and Atlanta Braves organizations, the 28-year-old has yet to make the playoffs as a pro.
“We’ve got a good vibe in the clubhouse,” Maddox said. “I think we felt it in spring training and all kind of looked at each other. We know we have what it takes to compete.”
Maddox has worked to improve his catching abilities, specifically his defense.
“It’s made him a better catcher, and he’s improved dramatically in the past few years,” Tagert said. “He works on all his catching skills. It just continues to improve. He loves being a RailCat, he’s a great teammate, a great leader and very vocal, very outspoken.”
Maddox has a team goal of making the playoffs and a personal goal of parlaying his versatility into another shot at affiliated pro ball.
“Any time you can be comfortable at multiple positions and be serviceable there, then you’re going to give yourself a chance to look appealing to major league organizations,” Maddox said. “I think every guy has a desire to get to affiliated ball and into the big leagues. That’s why we wake up every day and we work as hard as we do.”