From the Pages of Vine Line: Cubs Jaron Madison a team player

The following can be found in the January issue of Vine Line.

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(Photo by Stephen Green)

The Cubs front office made one under-the-radar move this winter that’s no less important than signing a big free agent. With Brandon Hyde moving to the dugout to serve as bench coach for new manager Rick Renteria, the Cubs shifted scouting director Jaron Madison to the vacated farm director spot.

That makes the 38-year-old Madison the guardian of the team’s future, a role he admits comes with a great deal of pressure as the Cubs move forward with their plan to build a sustainable winner from within. But that pressure, he said, is one reason he left the Padres a year ago in a lateral move to the Cubs.

“San Diego is a great organization, but working for an organization with the history and tradition of the Cubs is a bigger challenge,” Madison said. “I know how much more it would mean to the city when we win. Chicago sports fans are some of the best sports fans in the world.”

In Madison, the Cubs have a farm director with a strong track record. Since beginning his career in scouting and player development in 2002 with the Padres, he has worked for two other teams, the Cardinals and the Pirates, that have cultivated winning big league teams from within.

The common thread among all three organizations, Madison said, is the constant, open communication that extends from the big league front office all the way down to the low minor league levels. For the farm system to produce, everyone needs to be pulling in the same direction.

And few people are more capable of keeping everyone together than Madison.

“He’s very intelligent and has a great presence,” said Hyde, whose relationship with Madison extends back to the late ’90s, when they played together at Long Beach State. “I think a key to him being a great leader is he’s a great listener.”

That was an obvious asset for him as a scout, a job that relies on relationship building with young players and their parents and coaches. But while Madison said his new job is completely different, he’ll still need to flex those relationship-building muscles.

“Everyone has to have complete buy-in, and to get there everyone needs to know what’s going on at all times,” he said. “There can’t be any whispering going on behind closed doors.”

Madison will spend the summer doing the same thing he did after the draft last year—traveling in a constant loop among Cubs affiliates to talk, listen and observe. Hyde said he thinks Madison will love it.

“The relationships you build with the staff members, the constant interaction with the coaches, rovers and instructors, and the process of getting your organization to be successful make it a fun job,” Hyde said.

But both Hyde and Madison understand the job is not about having fun. Not with a nation of Cubs fans anxious for a return to winning baseball.

“I read the blogs,” Madison said. “I know how much the fans want it.”

Madison, of course, is in firm agreement with the rest of the Cubs brain trust, preaching patience with the process and avoiding any firm deadlines on when the organization will turn the corner.

“I’m really excited about the guys we have in our organization,” he said. “I see a core of strong players we can build on and rely on for the foreseeable future, and I think the payoff will be a lot sooner than people may think.”

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