ST. PETERSBURG -- Since becoming manager of the Rays prior to the 2006 season, Joe Maddon has brought his unique style to the position, and excellence has followed.
Maddon has twice won American League Manager of the Year honors, and after two losing seasons in his initial campaigns, the native of Hazleton, Pa., has led the team to six consecutive winning seasons, and playoff appearances in four of the last six seasons.
Fun has been an integral component to Maddon's tenure, which is befitting of his personality.
In that vein, Maddon has instituted themed dress trips when the Rays go on the road. The team has experienced 28 such trips in eight years, including five in 2013.
He somehow managed to elevate the fun in the clubhouse this season to where, on any given night before the game, a DJ, a cockatoo, a magician, penguins, or even a python could be found.
And, for the second consecutive year, Maddon held "American Legion Week" during the Angels series at Tropicana Field from Aug. 26-29.
Maddon's explanation: "We call it American Legion to keep things loose. Most of us played Legion ball at some point, when we showed up 10 minutes before game time. We didn't need BP back then, just stretch and go. I wanted to give the guys a rest and get them off their feet."
Accordingly, the Rays hung the banner from Tampa Post 182 in the clubhouse all week and treated the members of the post to a night of free beer, pickled eggs and bar sausages.
"Some of it seemed silly at the time, but once you leave, you realize that's the kind of stuff that helps a team win and brings them closer and all that other stuff," former Rays outfielder Carl Crawford said. "What might look silly to other people is actually what's good for those guys."
MLB.com met with the Rays manager, who also is a doting grandfather, for the following holiday Q&A:
MLB.com: What plans do you have for the holidays?
Maddon: We're spending the holidays at our home in Tampa. We'll be flying in my kids -- Sarah and Joey -- and their spouses and our grandkids from Phoenix. One is going to arrive the day before Christmas, the other the day after. Normally, we're either in Hazelton or Long Beach, Calif. They've come out to Long Beach in the past. We've never had a Christmas in Tampa. This is a first.
MLB.com: You cook every year during your Thanksmas celebration for the Tampa Bay and Hazleton communities, so surely some cooking is involved, right?
Maddon: Definitely. We have a great kitchen in our house. I want to do a lot of cooking -- family-type meals.
MLB.com: What else is on the agenda?
Maddon: I definitely want to take everybody around, whether it's Busch Gardens, or different places in the area, because they've never really seen it here before. Joey's been here before, Sarah's never been here before. And the grandkids have not. So I just want to take them to different spots like the aquarium, Busch Gardens, maybe even Disney. I want to make it really fun for them, for sure."
MLB.com: Do you have any Christmas traditions?
Maddon: I love to go to midnight mass. I'm going to try and get that done this year.
MLB.com: Are there any favorite foods from the Maddon home?
Maddon: My mom makes these cookies, I don't know how to spell what they're called. It's like this sugar cookie. I crush those. Beanie [his mother] will make some of those and send them down.
MLB.com: What is your favorite Christmas movie?
Maddon: "It's a Wonderful Life" is tops. "The Sound of Music" is a close second, but "It's a Wonderful Life," I will watch that with the kids when they come out. That is my movie of choice, always.
MLB.com: What stands out as your all-time favorite Christmas present?
Maddon: Flexible-flier sled -- had a chrome bumper on the front. I had it for I don't know how many years. I can still see it standing there next to this wall. I might have been 8 or 9 at the time. I didn't know I was getting it. I said that I wanted it. But at that time you never knew what you were going to get. When I walked out and saw it against the wall, I knew Santa brought that.
MLB.com: Do you believe in Santa Claus?
Maddon: You bet. Of course I do.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.