TAMPA - There were certainly things that surprised people in a good way when he arrived in Chicago back in the late fall of 2014.
The quirky sayings, unique road trips, random lineup switches and appealing personality were something new for a Cubs' manager, and were embraced by the fans along with the winning which he brought the club.
But what Cubs fans have discovered about Joe Maddon over the past three years is something that Rays' rooters in Tampa were used to experiencing for a decade. It was he who used a unique style of managing that delivered the young franchise their first taste of success in Major League Baseball.
Now the two eras of Joe will get a chance to cross in the ballpark he used to call home.
On Tuesday night, Maddon makes his first return to Tropicana Field to face the Rays in the first of a two-game series on Tuesday night. It's the Cubs first trip to Tampa since the manager moved to Chicago starting in the 2015 season, with the Cubs facing the Rays for a pair of games at Wrigley Field earlier in the season.
It also marks a rare opportunity for Maddon to visit his hometown during a road trip, since the manager makes his home in the area in the offseason. He even owns his own Italian Restaurant - Ava - located on South Howard Avenue in Tampa.
While some fans might not be happy with the way Maddon abruptly left the Rays for the Cubs over nearly three years ago, the manager figures to get a good welcome back from the fans considering his success with the team. In nine seasons from 2006-2014, he won 754 games with a .517 winning percentage and took the Rays to the playoffs four times.
That included the 2008 season, easily the best in the history of the Rays' franchise. Winning just 61 games two years before, Maddon and the team won 97 games that season for their first American League East title then beat the White Sox and Red Sox in the playoffs to advance to the World Series where they lost to the Phillies in five games. The Rays made the playoffs again in 2010 (AL East Title), 2011 (Wild Card) and 2013 (Wild Card) though never advanced past the divisional series.
Now Maddon comes to Tropicana Field fresh off two more playoff appearances with the Cubs and World Series title in 2016. His team currently leads the NL Central by 3 1/2 games over the Brewers with just under two weeks to play and on the heels of a six-game winning streak.
Nostalgia will certainly be on the mind of Maddon when he steps back into a dugout on Tuesday night, but like his time with the Rays his mind will turn to a "W" once the first pitch crosses the plate.