Orioles third baseman Manny Machado loves competing. And he loves games of any kind.
Whenever he is in the Orioles’ clubhouse for an extended period pre-game, he usually has a pool stick in his hand or is sitting down playing cards, often talking trash with first base coach Wayne Kirby and second baseman Jonathan Schoop.
(The above picture, used for a photo shoot a few years ago, was taken, of course, in a game room. Machado, left, is pictured with his brother-in-law, Yonder Alonso, an infielder with the Oakland A’s.)
Machado carries that passion for games over to his regular job. He started every game last season, and hasn’t missed one yet this year. His 195 consecutive-games-played streak heading into Friday is the longest active one in the majors.
So it is fitting that Machado’s primary charity endeavor would revolve around playing a game – and making sure kids get to play games.
On Sunday, from 6 to 9 p.m., Machado is hosting his third annual BaseBowl Tournament at Mustang Alleys Bar Bowling and Bistro at 1300 Bank Street.
Most of Machado’s teammates will be at the sold-out, celebrity bowling event, and so will manager Buck Showalter and Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. MASN broadcaster Gary Thorne will be the emcee.
“I’m excited for it this year. I think we’re gonna have a good turnout this year,” Machado said. “We’re gonna get a lot more guys out there to bowl and maybe we’ll put a little side bet on things to see who is the best bowler.”
Last year, the tournament, along with a silent auction at the event, raised $80,000 for the Baltimore City Recreation Department’s Play Baseball campaign. For eight weeks, 300 kids, ages 9 to 12, were given the opportunity to play baseball — along with proper uniforms and equipment. Transportation to the fields were also provided to the participants.
“Last year we doubled the amount of kids going out there on teams. We got them a lot more uniforms and hopefully this year more kids will come out. That’s my biggest key,” Machado said. “I just want kids to go out there and play, to get into sports. Even if they don’t like baseball, just to get out, to be outside and be in a ballpark. I think that’s why I’ve been so successful, and I am where I am right now, because I was always outside. I was always able to be outside and to play games and just be a kid. Kids have got to be kids.”
Machado, just 23, said he understands children today have a lot of distractions that keep them from playing outside. One of his favorite things to do is play video games versus Schoop.
“Nowadays with all this technology, people are on their IPads and PS4’s and Xboxes. There’s nothing wrong with that. I get it. I was a kid, you love all that stuff,” he said. “But I think the game of baseball is fading away a little bit with little kids, and I think the best way is to help them get out there more and do anything we can to let them play the sport, or really any sport.”
Machado said when he was growing up in Miami he was always outdoors doing something athletic. He didn’t have many structured opportunities, and that’s why he’s chosen this charity and an annual event to support it.
“I used to ride my bike to the park to play basketball. I never had this opportunity that they are given,” he said. “It takes me back to my days. And now this is an opportunity to give back. I’ve always wanted to give back, but I didn’t have the opportunity back in the day to do it. Now I can. So I’m going to do it. This is the least I could do. I put myself in the shoes of the young, inner-city kids, or even the other kids that are out there, and that can get out to a park and play.”
The initiative has already started well. The Orioles announced they have donated $10,000 to the city’s parks and recreation department in support of Machado’s efforts and will host participating youth at a future Orioles’ home game.
Machado said he is hoping that enough money will be raised to increase the number of kids involved from 300 to 450 or so.
So, after Sunday’s contest against the Detroit Tigers, Machado and his teammates will be involved in a unique doubleheader. And, true to form, Machado would love to emerge as the best one in the group.
“We’re gonna have to see, we’ve got some new faces in here,” Machado said. “I know CD (Chris Davis) loves to bowl; he is pretty good at it. We’re gonna have to see. I’m decent, I’m not gonna say I’m great, but I can bowl. I can decently bowl if I put my mind to it.”