By Tom Worgo
Baltimore All-Star third baseman Manny Machado is one of the baseball’s rising young stars. In March, ESPN ranked him as Major League Baseball’s 18th best player.
It’s no stretch to expect Machado’s price tag to exceed $200 million when he soon becomes a free-agent. Of course, any contract the 24-year-old Machado gets will certainly be contingent on his health.
A partially torn ligament in his left knee limited him to about half a season in 2014 and his previous season was cut short by a severe injury to the other knee. He had surgeries on both knees.
But a stellar 2015 season eased the injury fears. The Miami native became the only player in baseball to play in all 162 games last year. He hit 35 home runs with 70 RBI and batted 286.
What’s Up? Media recently sat down to talk with Machado about his future with the Orioles, overcoming injuries and his 2014 marriage to Yainee Alonso. He also talks about his relationship with Orioles Hall of Famer Brooks Robinson and New York Yankees slugger and Miami native Alex Rodriguez.
Would you like to spend your rest of your career with the Orioles?
“I would love to. This is the only organization I know. If I can stay here for the long term, it would definitely be a great thing. I love the city, I love the organization, and I love where we are going. There are things we can change around here. I would definitely love to be part of it.”
Do you pay attention to the huge contracts players around baseball get?
“Not really. I just go out there and play. Obviously, they come up on TV and you see them on the Internet and stuff. I really don’t pay attention to it. You have to worry about yourself. There is a lot of money out there in baseball. Everybody will get paid.”
Have you met Brooks Robinson? If so, what have you taken away from your conversations with him?
“Yes. Every time I see him, I get a glow on my face. I am so amped to see a guy like him. Every time he comes in here, he goes above and beyond. He comes over and says hi to me. He says he enjoys watching me play. We have talked about a lot of on-the-field and off-the-field stuff. He is a great guy. He loves watching games. Every time I talk to him, he says he is watching the games.”
Has Alex Rodriguez been like a mentor to you?
“We are close. We are good friends. We chat all the time. We go out to dinner and hang out. He has helped me a lot. One of the first times I worked out was with him. He took me under his wing and taught me a lot about baseball. He has helped me a lot throughout my career and coming up in the minor leagues. That’s why I am here right now.”
Washington outfielder and National League MVP Bryce Harper was drafted two spots ahead of you in the 2010 draft. Have you followed his career closely?
“Of course. We go back a ways. We played together on the (2010 Under 18) USA team. I watch him to see how good a career he is having. The MVP season he had last year was unbelievable. Whenever I see him on the field when we play the Nationals, I talk to him. We text each other once in a while to see what is up.”
Two of your seasons were cut short because of injuries. Did you make a statement playing in 162 games?
“I don’t know about a statement. I tried to go out and help my team win every day. I put myself in a good position and put my team in a good position. I just wanted to give 110 percent everyday. That was my mindset coming into the season. I missed a lot of time. I just wanted to come out and show them I could play everyday.”
How would you describe your leadership style?
“I go out there and grind every day. When you do that every day, you get respect from your teammates, all the players around the league and your coaches. I just go out there everyday and show everybody around here that, ‘This is what we are going to do out here. And what ever happens, we are going to leave it all out on the field.’”
What charities do you devote most of your time to?
“Play Ball. I try to get the kids out to play baseball. Getting them to play baseball and sports is the biggest thing. Today, kids are all about technology and all about the stuff that keeps them in the house. I try to get them uniforms, equipment, transportation, food. Let them get a feel for a baseball game. Baseball needs to get more kids playing.”
How has life changed for you since you got married?
“It has changed for the good. It’s awesome. You have a person to talk to when you come home everyday. She’s a person who is always going to be there for you no matter what. It’s been awesome and a great journey. Hopefully, it will continue for many more years.”