I had the chance earlier this season to talk with Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop about their relationship – from meeting in the minors as rivals to their ascension together to the major leagues and their current roles as key members of the Orioles.
I wrote a long cover story for this month’s Pressbox about their unique and lasting friendship, which includes arguing over who has the better arm, who is physically stronger and how steak should be cooked. Let’s just say I had a lot of fun writing the piece.
At the time of those interviews, Schoop and Machado had only been double play partners briefly, but it has become a regular thing now that shortstop J.J. Hardy is on the disabled list with a fracture in his left foot.
Hardy is a tremendous shortstop, so it’s not as if he has been replaced by Machado, who has moved over from third base temporarily. But Machado has been more than adequate, and you can definitely see how at ease he and second baseman Schoop are in playing together.
Their turn of the double play has been effortless.
I asked them if it meant more to be double play partners than it did just to be teammates:
“100 percent. Shortstop and second base, you are always brothers,” Machado said. “You’re up the middle, you guys are grinding together. You have to have a great communication, so it’s a little different. I think I was a little distant from them at third base.”
Both Machado and Schoop began their professional careers at shortstop. When they played together in the minors, for the most part, Machado was at short and Schoop was at third base. So being double-play partners is relatively new, yet that’s impossible to tell by watching them.
“Every time I go over there and play with him it’s just something that just feels so natural to me. It just feels so easy. Because I can communicate with him easily,” Machado said. “He knows what I’m going to do; he knows I know what he’s going to do. What plays he likes to do, what he doesn’t like to do. It’s just like riding a bike.
“When you’re a kid and you got that bike and you go out there and ride. It’s just one of those best moments, when you’re riding with your best friend to the park to go play some (basketball). This is just something that’s pretty cool.”
When Hardy returns, Machado will likely go back to third base. He and Schoop don’t know the next time they’ll be double-play partners. So they are enjoying this ride.
“I’ll never take it for granted,” Schoop said. “That’s why I work hard every day and I appreciate it every day. And for him and me to be together, it’s something new. (But) it’s something special.”