By Doug Miller / MLB.comReliever Ryan Madson was an integral member of the 2008 World Series champion Phillies, but for those who knew him when he was growing up in Moreno Valley, Calif., he's still the same guy.
"We've been buddies since we've been about 10 years old," said Sammy Maniaci, Madson's Valley View High School teammate who went on to coach their alma mater's baseball team from 2000-07.
"I was in his wedding. He's one of my best friends in the world, and it was a privilege to play with him. He's a big-time competitor who always wants the ball. He wants to put you on his back and carry you, and he's always been that guy."
Maniaci played behind Madson, then a star prep starter, in the middle infield from 1995-97, and he wasn't surprised at all when "the radar guns started showing up everywhere" during their senior year.
But Maniaci could tell Madson was special well before then, when the two were 11-year-olds looking for pickup games at nearby Sunnymead Park.
"We were field rats," Maniaci recalled. "We were always at the ballfield -- he always pitched, and he played outfield a little bit. He could hit pretty well, too, but he was always the main man on the hill."
Madson is showed that dominant ability as the "Bridge to [Brad] Lidge" in 2008. With his superb relief work, he helped the Phillies claim their second World Series championship in franchise history.
But he's also a guy who's quick to laugh or pull off a good-natured prank, according to Maniaci.
"I don't think I've laughed harder with anybody in my life," Maniaci said. "He's something else. During batting practice in high school, instead of going to shag fly balls, we'd dance in center field.
This, too, has not changed, though Madson has learned from his mistakes in regard to teammate-ribbing in the Phillies clubhouse. That's why he hasn't touched the subject of 45-year-old Philadelphia starter Jamie Moyer's age.
"I've never mentioned anything to him," Madson insisted. "I learned the hard way. I think I made a comment to (former Phillies relievers) Tim Worrell and Rheal Cormier a couple years ago. I made a comment to them, and I didn't have any clothes left in my locker. So I don't say anything about his age."
Yup, it's the same old Ryan, the same guy Maniaci went to bat for at his old friend's recent wedding.
"I was one of the groomsmen," Maniaci said, "and I got up and spoke about our friendship, about him being a great guy and about how it's been a privilege to have grown up with him and still be a part of his life."
Valley View honored Madson last year with a number retirement ceremony, and the Phillies reliever enjoyed the chance to gather with his old teammates and reminisce about more innocent times.
Maniaci noticed then what he noticed while watching his friend shine on the postseason stage.
"He's never gotten a big head," Maniaci said. "He's the same person to this day, and it's one of the greatest things I respect about him.
"He's Ryan from Moreno Valley."
Doug Miller is a Senior Writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.