Professional baseball can keep a player far away from his home for months at a time, especially if that home is far from the team for which he is playing.
Thanks to a man who will be going into the National Baseball Hall of Fame next weekend, however, Jeff Treadway didn’t have to worry about lengthy absences from home for nearly half of his nine-year major league career.
Treadway, a product of Middle Georgia College and the University of Georgia, spent four seasons, from 1989-92, with the Atlanta Braves. The general manager who acquired him, Bobby Cox, became the Braves’ field manager during Treadway’s time with the team.
For Treadway, playing for Cox meant learning about the game -- and life in general -- from a manager who won more than 2,500 games before retiring at the end of the 2010 season.
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“He’s as good a manager as anybody,” said Treadway, who managed the Macon Braves in 1999 and 2000 and has been the softball head coach at Stratford Academy since 2003. “I spent four years there, and there’s nobody better. There are a lot of other good managers in baseball, there were then and have been since. But there’s nobody that’s a better manager than Bobby Cox.”
Cox, along with former Braves pitchers Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine, will be inducted July 27 in Cooperstown, New York, along with former Chicago White Sox slugger and Columbus native Frank Thomas, as well as former managers Tony La Russa and Joe Torre, himself a former Braves player (1960-68) and manager (1982-84). The ceremony is slated for a 1:30 p.m. start, and it will be shown on the MLB Network cable channel.
Treadway, a second baseman who occasionally played at third, spent his first two seasons in the majors playing for the Cincinnati Reds, managed at the time by Pete Rose. In his second season in the majors, 1988, Treadway hit .252 in 103 games.
Just before the 1989 season started, Treadway had his contract purchased by Cox and the Braves.
“I’m thankful that he went out and got me from Cincinnati,” Treadway said. “I made that team my first year (in Atlanta) and got a lot of playing time my first year. Being in Atlanta and playing for that organization kind of solidified my career. I went and played in a couple of World Series, to boot. So it was a great time.”
Prior to replacing Russ Nixon as field manager 65 games into the 1990 season, Cox made several moves that laid the foundation for the Braves’ run of success during the 1990s. Among them were the development of Glavine, who made his major league debut in 1987 after coming up through the Braves’ farm system, and the acquisition of John Smoltz from Detroit late in the 1987 season.
Under Cox’s guidance, the Braves went from losing 106 games in 1988 to winning 94 games in 1991, going from worst in the NL East in 1990 to winning the NL pennant the following season. Treadway wound up playing for two World Series teams with the Braves (1991 and 1992) before departing for Cleveland prior to the 1993 season.
“We were all together and kind of came through the bad times, but it evolved into some very good teams at the same time,” Treadway said. “It was a lot of fun.”
Maddux signed with the Braves as a free agent from the Chicago Cubs during the same offseason in which Treadway went to the Indians. Both Glavine and Maddux were in the starting rotation for the Braves during Treadway’s time as the Macon Braves’ manager.
The Braves made five World Series appearances under Cox, winning it in 1995.
“John Schuerholz came in (as general manager) when Bobby took the field, and (Cox) was still involved in front-office things, even from the manager’s chair,” Treadway said. “They put together some great teams. They’re doing the same thing now.
“I think the thing maybe is a little different between then and now is the quality of the pitching. There was some dominating pitching there at those times. There are just not as many dominating pitchers (now) than there were at that time.”
Treadway, whose final big-league season came in 1995 with the Los Angeles Dodgers and Montreal, said he uses Cox as a role model for his approach to teaching both baseball and softball. He coached Stratford to four straight GISA Class AAA softball championships from 2009-12, and he coached Stratford’s baseball team to the 2007 GISA Class AAA title as part of a six-year run as the school’s baseball head coach.
“He knows baseball, that’s for sure,” said Treadway of Cox. “Better than that, he knows people. I think I’ve learned a lot about how to treat people more from him than anyone else that I’ve known. Just a good person. He is very deserving of the (Hall of Fame).
“(Cox, Maddux and Glavine) are quality guys, quality people, very competitive people. They very much deserve what they are getting.”