Joe Maddon brings in magician to 'lighten things up' amid Cubs' skid

NEW YORK -- Claiming zoo animals are too hard to find on the road at the last minute, Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon instead brought a magician in to perform for his team before Tuesday's game against the New York Mets.

"Joe started talking about [baseball] magic and the next thing I know there was a magician there," second baseman Addison Russell said afterward.

Maddon thought of the idea "on the plane or bus" after the Cubs' weekend series in St. Louis, where they were swept. They were on a season-high five-game losing streak, having fallen 11½ games behind the Cardinals going into Tuesday's games.

"It was about time," Maddon said. "Tough series in St. Louis. I don't want our guys to get all distraught for the wrong reasons. We played a good game. They beat us. Let's keep moving it forward."

Maddon had a reputation for ploys like this in Tampa Bay, where he was known to bring animals into the clubhouse. Many wondered if those sorts of moves would play in a bigger market.

"I'm not a big magic fan," pitcher Jon Lester said. "It kind of creeps me out a little bit, but it was cool. That's Joe."

Simon, the magician, performed several tricks, but everyone's favorite involved a crushed, empty soda can.

"He then uncrushed it, sealed it, then popped the can and poured the now full can of liquid into a cup," Lester said. "It was amazing."

The Cubs had scored 11 runs in their past seven games -- including just six during their losing streak -- so one way to take the pressure off a young team is to provide a distraction. After the show, instead of everyone talking about the Cubs' lack of offense, they were talking about the magician.

"Just trying to lighten things up a little bit," Maddon said. "We're always trying to create some magic around here, so why not bring a magician in?"

The Cubs went on to beat the Mets 1-0, ending their five-game skid.