Added Rays manager Kevin Cash: "I think he was a big part of instilling that this organization can compete. That might have been the most important thing he did. He started to make some people believers that they could go up against some of the other AL East teams."
Following the end of the first inning, a video tribute to Maddon played on the right-field scoreboard accompanied by The Beach Boys' "Good Vibrations." Fittingly, the tribute ended by saying, "Thanks for the memories, Joe."
Earlier, Maddon spoke at a news conference. Looking back, he marveled at "all the great work we put together" to become a winning club.
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"So many talented people together at the right moment, almost like the perfect baseball storm," said Maddon, who went 754-705 over nine seasons with the Rays. "With Stu [Sternberg] putting the group together, being there with Andrew [Friedman] and Matthew [Silverman] and the whole group."
Maddon gave kudos to the work done by the scouting and player development departments, then noted: "Of course the players. We only got really good because the players got really good."
Maddon planned to take time to smell the roses, adding that returning to Tropicana Field wasn't as unusual to him as the first time he found himself in an opposing dugout from the Angels, the organization he was a part of for 30 years prior to joining the Rays before the 2006 season.
Special moments Maddon remembered included the final outs that clinched a 2008 postseason spot and the '08 AL Championship Series. He also lamented that the '08 World Series, which the Rays lost to the Phillies, featured such terrible weather throughout the Fall Classic.
A reporter asked Maddon if the magic could again return.
"Of course it can," Maddon said. "I like the team here right now. [Cash has] done a great job. I'm a big Kevin fan. And I think as he continues down the road, it's just going to keep getting better. I like the coaching staff. I like the players a lot. I know it hasn't worked its way out yet this year, but there's a lot to like about this group. Moving forward, honestly, I think a new building is in order."
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Maddon and his wife, Jaye, still make Tampa their home in the offseason, and he gushed about how much he likes the area.
"Jaye and I really enjoy everything about it," Maddon said. "The people. ... Everything about this area. The fans themselves."
Maddon spoke like a man proud of what the organization as a whole accomplished.
"When you look back at it, man, it's pretty special how it all came together at one time, based on the history previous to that point," Maddon said. "I'm really proud of being a part of that. I feel very fortunate to have been a part of that."
Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for MLB.com since 2005. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.