Nobody is more qualified to comment on the state of Las Vegas baseball than Greg Maddux.
Maddux’s major league bona fides are well known—first-ballot Hall of Famer, 355 victories, four consecutive Cy Young awards—and his Vegas credentials are unimpeachable, as Vegas Seven detailed in last year’s oral history. The Valley High School product still calls this city home, and last year he served as a pitching coach at Bishop Gorman High School, where he tutored his son, Chase, a right-handed pitcher who signed with UNLV in the spring.
He’s also in his fourth year as a special assistant in the front office of the Texas Rangers (where his older brother, Mike, is the pitching coach). So when it comes to discussing the current wave of Las Vegas-based talent hitting it big in the major leagues, the man who earned the nickname The Professor during his playing days knows his stuff. And he’s impressed.
“It’s cool,” Maddux says. “We’ve got three guys [from Las Vegas] who might combine to hit 150 home runs next year.”
Maddux is talking, of course, about Bryce Harper, Kris Bryant and Joey Gallo, three of the game’s best young power hitters. All three are Vegas natives, and all are 23 or younger. It’s an export of talent not seen since Maddux’s era, when he, his brother and such players as Mike Morgan and Marty Barrett formed the city’s first wave of big league ballplayers.
When he surveys the landscape of baseball in Las Vegas today, Maddux sees no reason why the city can’t continue to produce top-flight major-league talent. “The players are better now,” Maddux says. “Guys throw it harder, they run faster, they hit it farther. The athletes are just better. And there are good coaches around the city—a ton of coaches who care a lot. I think we’re going to see more kids come out of Las Vegas.”
Maddux has had a close-up view of Gallo’s rise through the Rangers’ system, and he’s also kept an eye on Harper and Bryant as they’ve emerged on the big league scene. Even the greatest ballplayer in Las Vegas history admits he’s gotten caught up in the hype. “It’s exciting,” he says. “I’m with Texas, so I [got to] see Joey every day, and I try to follow Bryce and Bryant. It’s always nice to root for the Las Vegas kids. I’m proud of my hometown.”