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Tom Verducci
August 09, 2004
As remarkable as it is to win 300 games, Greg Maddux's real feat has been to thrive as a finesse pitcher in a power era
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August 09, 2004

Heady Stuff

As remarkable as it is to win 300 games, Greg Maddux's real feat has been to thrive as a finesse pitcher in a power era

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It's not uncommon for a pitcher, especially a veteran, to loathe workouts, but two or three times on his off days between starts Maddux chases fly balls during batting practice like an eager teenager hauled out of the stands. "I like to stay in shape, baseball shape, by playing baseball," Maddux says. "And it's fun. It's a lot more fun running around the outfield pretending you're Andruw Jones than running on a treadmill watching Jerry Springer reruns. To me, even the four days in between starts are fun."

Maddux makes certain that every throw he makes, even when shagging flies, is delivered from the same arm angle as one of his pitches, and never off-balance. He lifts light weights for his arm and shoulders from December through April, then, he says simply, "I trust my arm." At week's end he had thrown 4,110? innings in his career and had never been placed on the disabled list with an arm injury of any sort.

There are model Rockets all around baseball, tall power pitchers in the mold of Clemens with here-it-comes fastballs. The next Maddux, however, may be a long time coming. "Now," says Maddux, who stands six feet tall and weighs 185 pounds, "if you don't throw 95, you're a wimp. If you're not 6'4" with a 90-plus fastball, you'll never get drafted."

Says Glavine, "It's such a game of power pitching and power hitting now. Every pitcher throws flat-out gas with maximum effort. I don't know if we'll ever see anyone like Greg."

Here is the next Maddux. He is throwing a baseball against a dugout fence at Miller Park. Chase Maddux, Greg's son, is seven years old. He throws a pitch submarine-style.

"Like the guy from Oakland," he says, referring to reliever Chad Bradford.

"Stay on top, kid. Stay on top," Greg says.

The father raises his right arm in a classic L shape, his elbow slightly above the height of his shoulder. "Look," he says. "Like this."

That voice is a familiar one. Medar, who died in 1983 at age 69, never lived to see one of Maddux's 300 wins, never lived even to see him selected by the Cubs in the second round of the 1984 draft.

Chase winds up and, with a still head and properly raised elbow, lets fly a perfect strike.

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