Tagging along with his big brother, he would run down to the park to play ball against the older guys from the neighborhood in regular Sunday scrimmages.
He met a pitching coach who preached movement over velocity, and pretty soon Maddux was striking out those stronger teenagers. Nearly three decades later, he walked away from baseball Monday as one of the greatest pitchers to put on a uniform.
After 355 wins and 23 major league seasons, Maddux held a 30-minute news conference to announce his retirement on the opening day of the winter meetings just minutes from his Las Vegas home.
"I really just came out here today to say thank you," he said in a ballroom at the swanky Bellagio hotel. "I appreciate everything this game has given me. It's going to be hard to walk away obviously, but it's time. I have a family now that I need to spend some more time with. I still think I can play the game, but not as well as I would like to, so it's time to say goodbye."
Next stop, the Hall of Fame.
Wearing a casual shirt and slacks, Maddux spoke softly on stage and never appeared to get choked up. His parents and family including brother Mike Maddux, the Texas' Rangers pitching coach and a former big leaguer himself sat in the front row.
A large poster with photos of Maddux hung behind the podium. He was introduced by agent Scott Boras, who said "Mad Dog" had a "model" career.
Maddux leaves with four consecutive NL Cy Young Awards (1992-95) and a 3.16 ERA, especially impressive in the steroid era. He ranks eighth on the career wins list, with one more victory than Roger Clemens.
"I never changed," said Maddux, who turns 43 in April. "I think, hey, you locate your fastball and you change speeds no matter who is hitting."
Maddux spent his final season with the San Diego Padres and Los Angeles Dodgers, finishing 355-227. His remarkable resume includes a record 18 Gold Gloves, including one this year.