OAKLAND, Calif. — A week ago, Manny Machado was about to head onto the field from the dugout at Camden Yards when someone yelled out to him, "Hey Manny."
It's not an unusual occurrence these days for the young third baseman, who is increasingly becoming the center of attention for fans and national media.
But this one was different. It was Hall of Fame third baseman Brooks Robinson who wanted a few seconds of Machado's time.
"He actually called me out, 'Hey Manny,' and he introduced himself," Machado said. "To be recognized by him, for him to call my name, that is something that is unbelievable."
Machado, 20, and Robinson, 75, had never met before. They spoke for a few minutes shortly after last weekend's ceremony that memorialized manager Earl Weaver. And Robinson, arguably the greatest defensive third baseman of all time, chided Machado, a natural shortstop, for being too good at third.
"He said, 'Are you sure you've never played third base before?'" Machado said. "And I told him, 'No' and he said, 'Why don't you go ahead and make an error for once?' And I laughed. I actually thought that was pretty funny."
He wasn't the only one. Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. was standing nearby, heard the comment, chuckled and then joined the two. Suddenly, Machado was chatting it up with two of the greatest infielders in baseball history.
"Yeah, they were both there. That was a great thing. Just having those guys around is just great," Machado said. "You can pick their brains and talk to them. When you talk to them, they are just like us. It's like they are playing now in our shoes. That's pretty great."
Machado said he's known of Robinson's name since he was a kid in Miami, but he was more focused on shortstops growing up. Now that he is a third baseman for the Orioles, Machado said he's become a lot more familiar with the work of the 16-time Gold Glover known as the "Human Vacuum Cleaner."
"I have seen all the clips. He was an actual vacuum cleaner. He was, phew …, " Machado said, shaking his head. "Every time I see the clips it just gives me goosebumps to see him play, just how he cared about the game and the way he played the game."
Machado has made some Robinson-esque plays since coming to the big leagues last August. But he said he tries to ignore inevitable comparisons at a position that will always be Robinson's in Baltimore.
"I try not to think about it. But if you sit back and think about it, you have big shoes to fill, with him being one of the greatest third basemen and him being an Oriole," Machado said. "But it is great, especially because he knows who I am and he is watching us play and watching me play, watching all of us. It is unbelievable."
Machado said he'd like to have more time with Robinson in the future. And if he does, he has plenty of questions — and a favor.
"I would like to get an autograph from him, though. Hopefully, the next time I see him I will probably ask him for one," Machado said. "We just had a couple minutes. It was a quick little conversation. I would definitely love to sit down and talk to him a little more if he comes by sometime."
Will Machado go back to short?
Machado has become a bit of a curiosity for visiting writers and broadcasters and now he's a topic of conversation whenever the Orioles go on the road.
So Orioles manager Buck Showalter was asked while in Oakland whether he sees Machado returning to his original spot, shortstop, from third base at some point in the future. Showalter didn't hesitate, answering in typical Buck-ese.
"I see him in the future playing good baseball for the Baltimore Orioles. Where he ends up being, we'll see," Showalter said. "He's a good fit for us right now and I've learned with people like Manny that you don't put any limitations on him or any undue expectations. I just want him to be himself and do what he does."
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