Manny Machado Brings Chess (and Chess) to the Padres

SAN DIEGO – The pawns were in and the beautiful white soldiers were ready to attack. The game will resume, again, as soon as the hitters meeting is over and sometimes before the third star star baseman sets the box.

Given Manny Machado’s frustrations starting for the San Diego Padres this season, he would definitely joke that the five-star All-Star was playing chess while his friends were playing checkers. But in Machado’s case, it is also true: While he’s not battering against pitchers and stealing hits with acrobatic defensive plays, Machado can be seen to have made his mind wandering with a quiet mind on the chess board.

“Chess is interesting,” said Machado, who learned the game from Brady Anderson, a former player and Orioles manager, in Baltimore in 2017. “It’s something you can not go and play. “You have to think about what your opponent is thinking, what he is trying to do to you, what he is trying to do to you.”

The game loved Machado from the start. He kept a board on a small table next to his locker and his nearby clubhouse, Fernando Tatis Jr., had another board in the playground nearby; and played at home in the winter with his father, Luis Alonso, who was the father of former big-name Yonder Alonso.

When Tatis Jr. revealed last season that he sometimes played chess, Machado began to bring the board to the park for competition during his fall, much like he did in Baltimore.

“If you play every day, you’re in a battle with it,” said Wayne Kirby, head of Mets’ first base and a regular contender at Machado, both in action. Baltimore and again summer in San Diego.

So many Orioles will be playing chess in Machado at a time when players will be waiting in line and calling “I get next” as if on the court for football, Kirby said, and finally the team kept three chess boards in the clubhouse and traveled the board for a tour. Machado said he was still looking for new strikers in San Diego, so far competing with strikers Wil Myers and Trayce Thompson, who this week were selected to work on baseball, not in chess). Machado also played a bit with Tatis Jr.

His regular contender, however, was Michael Brdar, San Diego first-year hit coach.

“It’s fun,” Brdar said.

Machado remembers the first time he and his main Orioles nemesis, Jonathan Schoop, played. He was in Seattle in 2017, Machado said. Both were beginners at the time, so raw that Machado said their first game only lasted three minutes.

“We both suck,” Machado said. “It’s interesting to keep and learn from it.”

Machado and Schoop climbed together from Baltimore’s farm and were competitive in everything, including who had the strongest arms. They continue to improve as chess players until their game has become something close to addiction, complete with trash talk that is still popular today. today.

Who wins more?

“This is not a question. I let him hit me a few times just to make it better,” said Schoop, who now plays second base (and more chess) for the Detroit Tigers. If we played 100 times, he would beat me maybe 10 times. “

Machado laughed when this was sent to him – and corrected Schoop’s numbers.

“Honestly, at first it was a little difficult because he knew a little more than I did when I started,” Machado said. “But once I learned how to do a few jobs, he had no chance against me. Now, maybe it’s 70/30 – I’m 70, it’s 30. “

Machado said: “I do not think he can win a race against me right now. She will not get her queen out of the way. It will succeed. “

Schoop, however, claims to know “all of Manny’s moves,” especially as a special interest. He said, “If you take the horse out of it,” he said, referring to the soldier, “it’s done.”

Kirby agrees. “The horse is big for Manny,” he said. “He likes horses.”

Kirby and Schoop said that the game between the players can sometimes be controversial because both are very competitive. Sometimes, Schoop says, Machado would accuse him of lying.

“They’re not going to get to 100 games, they’re going to argue too much,” Kirby said. “They will come in because once you touch your king or something, and then take your hand out of it, you are done. Both will admit that they have not put their hands out of one. “

In San Diego this season, Machado had a hand in – and inside – everything. As of Thursday, his .383 batting average, 46 hits and 27 runs were all scored by leading majors. At the age of 29, he was already ranked 19th among the most active members of the MLB celebrity ranks (1,471) and 18th in house runs (258).

With Albert Pujols and Miguel Cabrera close to the end of their celebratory career, it looks like there will be a long wait for the next members of the 3,000-hit, 500-homer club. But Machado’s uniqueness of youth, productivity and longevity can make him a candidate to engage with on a day-to-day basis.

Machado called Cabrera “the best boxer I’ve ever seen” and praised his production.

“I know the game changed a little bit, but there were no hitters like that anymore who went out and got 3,000 hits, 500 homers – and 600 doubles, right?” Machado says. “It’s slugging.”

It was the kind of hitter Machado struggled to make, and it was the kind of hitter he was again after nagging left shoulder injury last summer making him unable to carry his arm for a while. He still played 153 games, refused to go to the injury list, and even now he smiles coyly while refusing to reveal the truth of the injury. “” I can not say that. I can not tell you. I do not know what it is. I’m not sure what it is. “)

It was all the ball of slugger, star fielder, lineup staple and chess kingpin that raised him into the team leader for a club that has had issues with the recent past.

“You see it from afar and you have your thoughts about it,” said manager Bob Melvin, who joined the Padres this holiday season, about Machado, whose anger has led to some problems. big past. “And then you go here and see what it is. It’s a little sound, definitely an example. It happens to play every day. He does it every day. There is something confusing about him shouting leadership. “

Brdar, who started playing chess after watching “The Gambit Queen” two winters ago, said there could be a combination of chess and fighting.

“You’d do badly in chess, and often it’s your turn to come back from that and not let it put in two, three, four bad things together,” Brdar said. . “That’s like a hit.

“You’re going to catch a voice here and there, you’re going to miss a mistake here and there. But more often than not it’s about what you do next two, three, four voices after That, or two, three, four after that. I think there is a clear comparison. “

Machado agrees, writing, “You are training your brain to do something good. People read, people make a small challenge to open their minds.”

For Machado, chess plays that role.

He and Brdar played “slow” games on the board in front of Machado’s locker – if the coach walked through the clubhouse and saw Manny move, for example, Brdar will stop and do it itself, and do it again. Then, after the hitters meeting or batting practice, they will play longer playing on the board in the players’ lounge.

“Now he plays fianchetto with his bishop,” Brdar said of Machado’s open plan in many games. “So he likes to have his bishop have all the pictures diagonally on the whole board.”

“That’s my move,” Machado said. “When I saw ‘The Queen’s Gambit, I did not know the real names at the time. I still did not get that much. I know a few. But it’ s all about opening. If you Put yourself in a good position and start fighting in a way and you stick to it, you can. This is one of the moves I use the most. “

Brdar is pleased to announce that he has learned to close this move. Machado ruefully admits that in their game so far this season, the coach has won three times and Machado only once, with one tie.

“But it was a long year,” Machado said. “Everything changes. It looks like baseball. You go to the hot, you go to the cold. I’m on my cold right now. “

Leave a Comment