12/08/10 10:31 AM EST
Always on the go
Mike Quade's engine never stops -- ask his family
By Michael Huang / Vine Line
As manager of the Single-A Macon Braves, Mike Quade outfitted his little brother in full uniform and sat him on the bench in the dugout. By the seventh inning, the 14-year-old resembled a wet sponge, sweltering in the 96-degree heat and nearly 100 percent humidity of a night game. Imagine if the sun was out.
"I damned near passed out on the bench," Scott recalled, laughing.
When the game concluded, Scott discovered that the night was far from over.
"By the time the post-game stuff got done, I was ready to go to bed. It was like midnight. Then Mike says to me, 'Hey, get ready. We're going fishing.'"
Despite his best efforts, the exhausted Scott was not allowed to fall asleep in the boat as Mike and a teammate fished for crappie.
"They had an underwater light they'd shine and it attracted all the fish," Scott said. "They made me hold the light underwater. At some point, I just finally passed out in the boat. We got home at 5."
Just as Scott mercifully dozed off, his older brother warned him: "Only sleep for a while, kid. We've got a day game. We're leaving for the yard in a couple of hours."
That endless energy typifies a man who has ground his way through 19 years in the minor leagues and paid his dues with interest. When Mike Quade became the 51st manager of the Chicago Cubs, the longtime organizational man had finally seen a dream realized. Unpretentious and devoid of self-promotion, Quade said he will be a teacher and an active participant in the improvement of his players. No one doubts that one bit.
The Quade house on Evanston resembled any other house on the quiet, tree-lined street in Mount Prospect, Ill. Neighbors claim Mike would be out in the driveway to all hours of the night playing basketball. Practice, practice, practice.
"The hoop was above the garage, the classic bucket on the house," said younger brother Bruce, one year Mike's junior. "Mike was the gifted athlete; I was the 'Joe Average.' But those basketball games got pretty rugged in the driveway. If the game was tight, it got pretty heated. Next thing you knew, we were rolling around in the dirt going at it."
It was a close family, says Mom, Gail Quade. "Very normal," Gail said. "The whole family is high energy. I think Mike takes after his dad in that way."
The bond between siblings -- Mike, twins Bruce and Theresa, and youngest brother Scott --was partially forged at the dinner table. The family meal served as a meeting place, not just for eating, but where culture was cultivated and a forum for discourse. It was where the Quade kids learned about gourmet food and a love of cooking was instilled by Gail.
"For Mike's 10th birthday, we ate at the Drake Hotel," Scott said. "I think that was our first encounter with gourmet food."
And the dinner table also was where spirited discussions over current events and politics would sometimes resemble those basketball games in the driveway.
"My family does not shy away from debate around the dinner table, especially when it comes to politics," Bruce said. "Mike's very intelligent, learned and well-versed. He has the ability to converse on just about any topic."
That ability to cover social ground served Mike well, as Mike Sr.'s career as a food technologist forced the family to move from Illinois to Ohio, to New Jersey, then back to Illinois. At each stop the kid who stuck out like a sore thumb had to learn to blend in all over again.
For at age 3, Mike began losing his hair and was diagnosed with severe alopecia. His parents took him to numerous specialists to no avail.
"I remember one day we were coming back from a specialist on the South Side of Chicago," Gail recalled. "The treatments were quite painful. And this little 11-year-old boy just said, 'I'm done. No more treatments.'"
As children are wont to do, Mike received doses of teasing-teasing that regained intensity every time the family relocated.
"We moved around, so we [siblings] leaned on each other," Bruce said. "Mike learned how to ignore it. Theresa and I were only a year younger than Mike, so we heard it all the time, and we couldn't ignore it. I remember getting into my share of scrapes because I was so fed up with it."
"The only time Mike seemed nervous about something was when he was 7 or 8 in the church's Red Robe Choir," Gail said. "The director thought Mike could sing a solo. Mike was a little worried, but he did it."
By the time he was in high school, sports had become Mike's refuge. At Prospect High, he was a three-sport star, excelling in baseball, football and basketball, even running track at one point. From the start, Mike's leadership was apparent.
"The way he carried himself, the way he talked to coaches, with Mike it was like having another coach on the field," said Larry Pohlman, Mike's high school baseball coach. "He led the conference in interceptions as a free safety, but more importantly, his demeanor kept everyone calm."
And like the dinner table, Mike's mind showed through on the playing field, no matter the gridiron, parquet or diamond.
"One of his greatest attributes is his intelligence," Pohlman said.
"I think he learned early on how to focus so well because he tuned out all the teasing and negativity," Scott said.
During one high school basketball game, fans from the opposing school threw wigs out onto the court hoping to unnerve Mike.
However, Mike calmly picked up one of the wigs, put it on, got everyone to laugh and completely defused the situation.
Likewise, Pohlman sought to use his star shortstop as motivation and role model for the rest of his team.
"I told the kids that if we won conference, I'd shave my hair like Quade," Pohlman laughed. "We lost to Niles West, who was the eventual champion, but Mike loved the idea."
Pohlman recommended Mike to an old college teammate, Ron Maestri, head baseball coach of the University of New Orleans. Mike headed south with a scholarship in hand and went on to hit .396 as a senior, breaking the school's single-season record with 74 singles.
He also earned all-Sun Belt Conference honors twice and SBC tournament MVP honors in 1979. Later that year, he was selected in the 22nd round of the amateur draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Though Quade wasn't long as a minor-league player, he went on to a 19-year career managing and coaching down on the farms. He's won titles and awards but never let them inflate his ego. And like at that family dinner table, Quade has never been afraid to speak his mind.
"[While with Triple-A Scranton] The Phillies wanted him to play some top prospect," Scott recalled. "But the kid wasn't playing well and was overmatched. So he told the front office he wouldn't play him. Mike got fired at the end of the season."
Faced with the prospect of starting over in A ball, Mike could have packed it in and called it quits. Instead, he rallied himself to work his way back up until he earned a big-league coaching position with Oakland, serving as first base coach from 2000-02.
The roster of coaches during that time was formidable, as future skippers Ron Washington and Ken Macha both served with Quade. And yet Quade was forced to wait for his shot.
"We've always told our kids, 'You aren't defined by what you do but by what you are.' Mike waited a long time for this chance," Gail said. "It takes a special person to have that kind of perseverance. We told him to get an agent to help him get more opportunities. But he wouldn't do it. And now, here he is."
That patience will be tested in 2011, with an aging nucleus surrounded by raw, but talented youngsters. Practice, practice, practice.
"Spring training will be interesting," said Scott, a former Minor Leaguer himself. "But he'll be involved in everything. That's just Mike. He will learn to adapt to the situation. He always has."
Michael Huang is an editor for Vineline. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.