Quade returns to high school on caravan stop
Cubs manager visits Prospect High, reunites with baseball coach
MOUNT PROSPECT, Ill. -- Wednesday was homecoming day for Mike Quade.
The Cubs manager returned to Prospect High School, where he starred in baseball, basketball and football, during a stop on the team's winter caravan. It was his first trip back since he graduated, and Quade recalled the last time he took part in an assembly in the Fieldhouse.
"I got an award for the best hair," he said, laughing. "It was the same as it is now."
Which means he doesn't have any. Quade began losing his hair at the age of 3, and was diagnosed with alopecia. He's accepted it, and told the packed school assembly a story about how someone once threw a wig onto the court during warmups of a high school basketball game. Quade picked it up and tried it on.
Kids at Prospect and in the community didn't taunt him, they accepted him. Quade's had to overcome a lot, like managing in the Minor Leagues for 17 seasons. He hasn't forgotten where he came from.
"Who knew when I was sitting out there 35 years ago that I'd come full circle to the Chicago Cubs?" he said. "Without the foundation from this community and this school, I wouldn't be here."
Quade took over the Cubs last August, when Lou Piniella retired, and guided the team to a 24-13 record. He received a two-year contract in October, and has a busy schedule leading up to Spring Training. After the weekend Cubs Convention at the Hilton Chicago, he'll do a one-week clinic in Bologna, Italy, then go home to Sarasota, Fla., for some final visits to his favorite fishing spots, and then go to Mesa, Ariz.
"I don't think it's a secret that a lot of the players went out and, not lobbied, but we were pulling for him," Cubs catcher Koyie Hill said of Quade. "We feel like 'Q' is one of us. I think that's important in a clubhouse. There are a lot of different temperaments and personalities in a clubhouse. To get a guy in charge and feel like he's a part of what you're trying to do -- he's not just showing up and putting the lineup up, but he's literally a part of the group, he's one of us -- that goes a long ways.
"We really appreciate the honesty he gives and the effort he gives every day. I think you'll see us give that back, and I think it'll be a good situation."
Quade's high school baseball coach, Larry Pohlman, has had 13 or 14 kids sign pro contracts.
"[Quade] is the first one who was a real Major Leaguer and the first manager," the 72-year-old Pohlman said. "It's pretty cool."
Quade's former coach, now a substitute teacher at Prospect High, attended Wednesday's event. The coach and his star have stayed in touch over the years.
"A lot of kids just go do their own thing, but he was always good, even writing letters when he was in college," Pohlman said. "He's special, he really is. He showed a lot of the same qualities when he was here playing that you can see in him now -- the hard work, there's a lot of determination, and positives. Things don't work all the time but you keep working at it, things will be all right."
Quade, 53, admitted that he was nervous about going back to his old school.
"It's been a long time," he said. "I think half the student body is of an age where I must know their parents. For all the stuff surrounding this job and being from the area and the 'dream' -- you guys know I don't get wrapped up in that stuff. This will be kind of cool today. I'm looking forward to it. It's been a long time since I walked in there."
He still remembers scoring 20-plus points in the 1975 Mid Suburban League Championship basketball game against Arlington, a school that no longer exists. Even though the 2,000-plus students attending Wednesday's assembly may not remember that, they should at least give him credit for getting them out of school for half a day.
"This is his homecoming," Prospect principal Kurt Laakso said.
He was definitely the star on the stage. Sure, the students wanted pictures with Andrew Cashner, Sean Marshall, Darwin Barney and Jay Jackson, but this was Quade's day. He told the students to stick to their dreams. He did say his only regret was that he majored in business at the University of New Orleans and should've picked Spanish because it would've helped him communicate with some of the players.
Give him time. He'll be fluent.
"He always had the knack of being able to converse," Pohlman said. "He was like another coach on the team. I know his basketball coach counted on him to help get over the bumps and be the person, the liaison, so to speak, between the other players and the coaches. He showed all of that when he was in school.
"I don't know if he was a born leader, but he had those kinds of leadership skills that not everybody had. It wasn't yelling at people or whatever, it was always constructive and pointing them in the right direction. I've always said he always got his two cents in, but he was always a good listener.
"He's an intelligent person. He's a well-rounded person -- he's well-read. He has other interests besides baseball. He's a pretty special guy."
Asked by a student what's been the highlight of his career, Quade didn't hesitate.
"You're looking at it right now," he said, smiling.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.