In some ways, Manny Machado is just a normal 20-year-old guy. He loves Jay-Z, can wolf down multiple Philly cheesesteaks in one sitting and will volunteer to kick your butt in any video game—especially NBA2K.
He may not always call when he says he’s going to, but he texts to apologize afterward. (We know that firsthand.) He loves his mom and lives with his girlfriend. (Sorry, ladies, he’s taken by a smart pre-med student whose big brother happens to be a Major League Baseball player, too.)
But Machado is not your normal 20-year-old. In only the second game of his professional career, the then-19-year-old third baseman became the youngest Oriole to ever hit two home runs in a game, earning the midseason call-up immediate street cred with fans (and two celebratory pies in the face from teammates).
These days, Machado, who grew up in a Dominican-American home in Miami, can be seen driving around town in a black Porsche—something he doesn’t like to brag about. Ditto his accomplishments on the field. But by any measure, the rookie had an extraordinary season, finishing with a respectable .262 batting average, belting seven home runs and showing signs of defensive flash even as he changed positions from shortstop to third base. Most importantly, his energy seemed to fuel a resurgent Orioles team and a fan base hungry for success.
By the time he hit a 14th-inning single in a nail-biting September game to clinch the Orioles’ first winning season since 1997, Baltimore was officially in love. In January, Style spoke with Machado over the phone from his home in Miami.
> So what was your world like growing up?
I grew up in the inner city of Miami. We lived in this little townhouse and when I look back on those days, I have so many memories I’ll take with me forever. That’s my heart, my hometown.
> Was it an easy life or a hard life?
My mom was a single mother. She raised me on her own with my grandma, my aunt and my uncle. So I’m not going to say it wasn’t tough. But it wasn’t as hard as it would have been with only one [grown-up]. Still, my mom had to work two jobs, so sometimes Saturdays would be the only day I’d get to see her. And I ended up going to a lot of my games with my uncle instead. But I loved that, too. I loved it to death. So it was all good.
> Is your mom just over the moon for you now?
Yeah, she watches all my games. Even when we’re in Oakland three hours behind, she’ll stay up late to watch. She’s so proud, she doesn’t want to miss a moment.
> Do you have any brothers and sisters?
Yes, an older sister. Yasmine. She’s turning 30 this year.
> It’s good to have a big sister, isn’t it?
Oh, man. It was great. Even though my sister was a lot older, she always let me hang out with her and the group she grew up with. It was a great opportunity to spend time with an older crowd—and I think I got to mature a little faster than other kids my age.
> What’s the best lesson you learned back then?
Just the value of family, you know? Family are your real friends. Your lifetime friends. We’ll always stick together.
> Was it always baseball for you?
Always. I played a little basketball, too. But, really, baseball is just my thing. It was my little kid’s fantasy to play in the World Series.
> I’ve heard you admired Alex Rodriguez when you were growing up. Did you pick your jersey number 13—the same as his?
No. I actually used the number 3 for Alex back in the day [in the minor leagues]. And my number was 10 when I was a little kid. I just showed up and my uniform was waiting for me in my locker. When I saw it I said, ‘OK, not bad. This is a good start.’
> Was it scary when you first started playing in the majors?
At first it was a little shocking to be on the same field with these guys I used to watch play. For example, just having [Jim] Thome as my teammate. I saw him play in 1997 against the Marlins in the World Series. Realizing I was in the same dugout as him, that was a pretty extraordinary moment for me. It was like, ‘Welcome to the big leagues.’
> Did you get a warm welcome from the rest of the team?
Absolutely. I’d say the closest friend I had was Robert Andino, but he unfortunately went to Seattle this year. He took me around and showed me the ropes. I went to the field with him every day on the road. I miss that guy.
> So who’s your wingman now?
The whole team really takes care of me. We have a lot of young guys who came up through the minor league system—and we have a great connection. It’s awesome to see where we’ve been and where we are now. We have a great bond.
> How about the veterans?
They’re all incredible. One of my favorite memories from spring training was the first time Jonesy [Adam Jones] invited me over to his house for dinner.
> He’s a foodie, right?
Yep, he actually cooked the meal for me. Made these amazing steaks with broccoli. So good! Jonesy’s a great guy—and a great leader.
> Do you eat healthy?
Sometimes. But I’m a junk food guy. I love New York style pizza. Love it, love it, love it. And I can house a lot of Philly cheesesteaks.
> So I hear there’s a little hazing that goes on with the rookies.
[Big sigh.] Yes … I had to wear a tulip. Wait, no, what’s it called? A tutu! They made me wear a tutu in public with this cutoff T-shirt and a sparkly headband with a feather sticking out of it. I had to wear it walking out of the stadium, on the bus and then on the entire plane ride to California.
> I’ve seen pictures. You looked kind of like a flapper.
It was super embarrassing.
> So do you consider yourself shy or outgoing?
Oh … shy, shy, shy.
> Do you ever get intimidated at the plate?
Not usually. It’s just something I’ve always done, hitting the ball. I try to keep it simple when I’m up there.
> What about off the field. Do you like getting recognized?
Most of the time I do. It’s pretty surreal. It’s something I always dreamed about when I was a little kid. Playing in the big leagues. Walking down the street and having people know who you are. I see it as a great accomplishment for myself. And it helps me feel connected to the fans. It’s a privilege.
> Are you aware of the crowd when you’re playing?
Totally. Sometimes you kind of learn how to tune out the noise if you need to stay focused on the game. But you can always feel the energy. You hear people in the background. It’s gotten really loud in Baltimore lately. I love it.
> So it really makes a difference when we’re out there screaming your name?
Oh, definitely. (Laughs)
> I had a friend describe the night you hit your two home runs. He said, ‘Out of nowhere, this new kid shows up and starts hitting it out of the park. And you could feel this change in Baltimore. It’s like we believed again.’ Did you know you did that?
Wow. No. Not like that. I knew I brought a great vibe, not only to the fans, but also to the team. And the team treated me so well in return. It paid off great for us. We made it to the playoffs and the fans came out to support us. There wasn’t an empty seat in the house, which I thought was the most unbelievable thing. Especially from what I’ve heard from players like Markakis and Jonesy who’ve been around for a while. They said it wasn’t the same the last couple years when we weren’t doing to so well. But this year, under Buck [Showalter] managing, we turned this Baltimore pride around.
> Seriously. For three straight months, you guys made Baltimore happy. People were literally calling out sick from work just to come watch you play. No way. Really?
That makes me feel awesome. I can’t wait to tell that to the guys!
> Let’s talk about that unbelievable game against Tampa Bay, when you faked a throw to first base and caught Rich Thompson in a rundown between third and home. People lost their minds over that play. Do you really have time to strategize in that moment or is it more instinct?
Pure instinct. Your mind is working so fast. I got a glimpse at first base and realized I probably wasn’t going to get that out. And for some reason, I don’t know where it came from, I was just like, ‘Let me pump fake and see what happens.’ It’s the type of thing you practice a hundred times during spring training and you won’t do it in 10 years.
> So are you pretty much like ‘I’m the man!’ after a play like that?
To be honest, not really. My heart was pounding so hard. And I was up next to bat, which was crazy. There was just so much going on, it didn’t really sink in until later.
> You’re being humble, so brag on somebody else for a minute. Who do you think is amazing?
Buck. I think he’s the best manager in the league right now. Such a positive influence on our team. He keeps us loose—still focused on the main goal, but always joking around on the field. Just to play for him, having him write my name in the lineup every day, that’s a huge honor for me.
> So, I’m sure you’re aware by now that girls love you.
Well … (laughs) … I have noticed a couple of signs out there. Like one time over the summer, a girl held up a sign that said ‘Call Me Maybe’ and it had her phone number on it. That was one of the best, craziest ones.
> But all of this is irrelevant because you have a beautiful girlfriend named Yainee, who’s hopefully heading to medical school soon. What attracted you to her?
Her sense of humor. It’s something that not so many girls out there have. We were friends for like a year before we started dating, so we get along great.
> Did you guys meet through her brother?
[Yonder Alonso, first baseman for the San Diego Padres]? We did. I’ve known Yonder since my senior year when I got drafted. We started working out together in the same gym and he kind of took me under his wing and helped me through my first year as a pro player. We still hang out all the time.
> And this season you guys will face off against each other for the first time.
It’s going to be awesome. All of our family and friends and fans are going to be there—and they’ll finally be able to watch us play against each other. They’ll want both of us to do well.
> Everyone thinks pro athletes are so cool. Tell me something dorky about yourself.
Nooo. I don’t have anything dorky. Or if I do, I try to keep it on the down low.
> Nothing? Really? Can you dance?
Me? Dance? No way. I mean, I guess I can a little bit. But let’s just say, I’m not a fan.
> Yainee told me you play Pandora and sing in the shower.
Aw, man. Then I guess I have to admit it. But that doesn’t mean it sounds good.
> If I plugged into your iPod right now, what would I hear?
A lot of Jay-Z.
> Got any tattoos?
Yep, I have a few. I have two stars on my hands, a portrait of my grandfather and a lion.
> Why the lion?
I just love them, they’re my favorite animal. The king of the jungle. To me, it kind of symbolizes being a man.
> Did you buy anything exciting with your signing bonus?
No, just kept it basic. Got myself a little car.
> What kind and color?
A Porsche. Black.
> Nice. But you seem a little reluctant to admit that.
Maybe a bit. I also got to buy my mom a house, which made me really happy. She worked so hard for us when I was little. So I enjoy going over there to spend time with her when I’m home.
> Any big plans for your 21st birthday?
You know, I’ve been so busy. I haven’t really planned anything. But it’s in July, during the season, so it should be fun.
> So what would you be if you weren’t a pro baseball player?
I honestly don’t know. It’s something I’ve thought about before, but I still haven’t come up with a good answer. I think baseball is what I was born to do. It’s a God-given talent, this thing I have. So I don’t spend much time questioning it. I just want to show I’m grateful for it.
> Have an amazing season and keep the magic going.
I promise, I will.
THIS OR THAT?
with Manny Machado
Xbox or PlayStation?
Lobster rolls or crabcakes?
Neither, cause I’m allergic to shellfish.
‘Bull Durham’ or ‘Field of Dreams’?
Android or iPhone?
‘South Beach or South Baltimore?
Gotta stick to my home town, sorry about that one.
Ray Rice or Ray Lewis?
Too tough! But I’ll go with Lewis.
Kobe or LeBron?
LeBron, all day.
Jeans or sweatpants?
Hmmm. Basically a tie, but jeans.
Dogs or cats?
Spider-Man or Batman?
Jessica Biel or Jessica Alba?
Damn! Let me ask my home crew here. (Calls out to friends in the background.) OK, they all say Alba.
Ketchup, mustard or relish?
Whichever one has the most wins (on the Jumbotron at Camden Yards).
Jimmy Fallon or Jimmy Kimmel?
‘Twilight’ or ‘Hunger Games’?
Low and away or up and in?
Up and in
Shortstop or third base?
Oh, man. That is really hard. I’ll say third base. Gotta love my job.