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Cubs sports psychologist Ravizza passes at 70

MLB.com @CarrieMuskat

CHICAGO -- Ken Ravizza, a pioneer in sports psychology who worked closely with Cubs manager Joe Maddon and Angels skipper Mike Scioscia, passed away Sunday night. He was 70.

On Monday, Maddon posted on Twitter: "My brother ... your voice and thoughts shall remain in my mind forever ... our work continues ... 'Attitude is a Decision" #BreatheDeep"

CHICAGO -- Ken Ravizza, a pioneer in sports psychology who worked closely with Cubs manager Joe Maddon and Angels skipper Mike Scioscia, passed away Sunday night. He was 70.

On Monday, Maddon posted on Twitter: "My brother ... your voice and thoughts shall remain in my mind forever ... our work continues ... 'Attitude is a Decision" #BreatheDeep"

Tweet from @CubsJoeMadd: My Brother.....your voice and thoughts shall remain in my mind forever....our work continues....���Attitude is a Decision��� #BreatheDeep https://t.co/7XpbtspzjZ

Ravizza worked with a variety of athletes -- from high schoolers to Olympians -- and treated them all with the same respect and professionalism. In 1985, Angels pitching coach Marcel Lachemann asked Ravizza to work with the staff, and the relationship thrived. Now, nearly every Major League team has a sports psychology department.

Ravizza, a regular in the Cubs' clubhouse, joined the team as a consultant in 2015 when Maddon was hired as manager.

"Ken's presence is felt in everything that we are about as Cubs," Josh Lifrak, director of the Cubs' mental skills program, said Monday. "His fingerprints are all over our process of playing baseball and our player development. If you watch how we play -- going pitch to pitch, never giving up, staying in the moment -- that is what Ken was all about.

"Personally, he was a friend first, and that's how you always felt when you talked with him: That he simply cared about you," Lifrak said. "If you talk to anyone in baseball, they will say the same thing."

Ravizza has had an impact on players, managers, coaches, and front-office staff, but he always stayed behind the scenes.

"His fingerprints are not only on us but on the entire sport of baseball," Lifrak said. "In terms of the Cubs' mental-skills program, Ken was a crucial piece to mentoring our entire staff and helping craft our message. He helped create a loving and caring culture that we are all about. He will be deeply missed by myself and our entire organization."

The Dodgers' Justin Turner posted on Twitter: "This morning the sports world lost one of the best mental game coaches to ever do it. There's no doubt in my mind I would have never made it to the big leagues without @KenRavizza1. He always had a different perspective and I'll never forget his voice! #YouWorkinIt RIP Kenny"

Tweet from @redturn2: This morning the sports world lost one of the best mental game coaches to ever do it. There���s no doubt in my mind I would have never made it to the big leagues without @KenRavizza1. He always had a different perspective and I���ll never forget his voice! #YouWorkinIt RIP Kenny

Tim Mead, vice president of communications for the Angels, remembered Ravizza on Monday as well. Said Mead on Twitter: "His impact on so many is immeasurable and his legacy will be a lasting one. @KenRavizza1 used not only his professional skills, but his genuine compassion, honesty and caring for each individual he connected with. #RIPKen"

Ravizza's wife, Claire, posted on Twitter that he died peacefully Sunday night.

"The support from around the world has sustained us," she wrote. "Thank you for all of it!"

Ravizza earned his Ph.D. at the University of Southern California in 1973 and was a professor in the kinesiology department at Cal State-Fullerton, where he taught courses in the area of applied sports psychology for 38 years. In 2016, he wrote a book, "Heads Up Baseball 2.0," for which Maddon wrote the forward. The two worked together for 30 years.

"Ken was a pioneer in his field and yet he was an even greater human being," Maddon said Monday. "He had this calm, patient approach to his craft yet his message was always loud and clear. His words were impactful, made you think and were accompanied by passion and understanding. Ken's message resonated with a lot of different folks, whether you were a professional athlete who had reached the mountaintop, a first-year coach or somewhere in between, Ken was there to lend his voice and help others achieve their dreams."

Ravizza was able to connect with players, whether it was catcher Willson Contreras or pitcher Mike Montgomery. Several Cubs players expressed condolences via social media Monday.

"As players, you can go one or two ways with sports psychologists," first baseman Anthony Rizzo said in San Francisco. "He did a really good job of being available at all times. When you talk to him, it was great. You let whatever you want off your chest. Life, baseball, anything. You just talk to him. He was always there, he was always happy, he was always smiling. Life happens fast. That's why you got to enjoy every day."

Said infielder Tommy La Stella: "He was an unbelievable person, an even better friend. Expert listener. ... His greatest strength was his ability to listen and truly hear what you needed and put it in a language that would make sense. He had such a knack for that. His communication, so much of it came from his ability to listen."

Condolences on Monday came from college coaches, such as Oregon's George Horton and Penn State's Rob Cooper to Yankees third-base coach Phil Nevin, who wrote, "Ken Ravizza, simply put, set the bar for mental preparedness in sports and life. We started when I was kicking field goals in college. Continued thru my baseball career. I was lucky to have met him as thousands of others were. RIP my friend."

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.

Chicago Cubs