Manny Machado brings chess (and kicks) to the Padres

Manny Machado brings chess (and kicks) to the Padres

San Diego – The pawns are lined up and the gleaming white knight is ready to attack. The game will resume as soon as the strikers’ meeting is over and before the star third baseball lights the boxing score.

Given Manny Machado’s attack on the San Diego Padres this season, it would be predictable to joke that all five stars play chess while his peers play belts. But in the case of Machado, this is also the case: when he does not hit the opponent’s pitchers and does not steal shots with acrobatic defensive games, Machado can be kept in mind with a calm mind at the chessboard.

“Chess is interesting,” said Machado, who learned the game from Brady Anderson, a former player and Orioles executive, in Baltimore in 2017. “You have to think in advance about what your opponent is thinking, what he is trying to do to you, how he is trying to attack you.”

Machado was interested in the game from the very beginning. He keeps a board on a small table in his closet and the club’s neighbor, Fernando Tati Jr., has another board in a nearby players’ hall; And plays at home in the winter with his father-in-law, Luis Alonso, who is the father of Yonder Alonso, a former major league player.

When Tatis Jr. revealed last season that he occasionally plays chess, Machado began delivering boards to the park for matches while he was playing in Baltimore.

“If you play every day, you fight him,” said Wayne Kirby, the Metz first base coach and Machado’s regular opponent, both in Baltimore and last summer in San Diego.

So many Orioles would play chess during Machado that players waited in line and shouted “I got next” as if there was a pickup basketball game on the court, Kirby said, and eventually the team kept three chessboards at the club and a passenger board for the road trip. Machado said he is still gathering new opponents in San Diego because he has so far matched the outfielders Will Myers and Trace Thompson who were appointed this week (in baseball and not chess). Machado also played a bit with Tati Junior.

However, his regular opponent is Michael Bardar, San Diego’s first-year striking coach.

“It was fun,” Brdar said. “She is OK. He is very good. “

Machado clearly remembers when he and his Oroles main opponent, Jonathan Schup, played the game. That was in Seattle in 2017, Machado said. Both were then beginners, so raw that Machado said their first game lasted only three minutes.

“We both complained,” Machado said. “It was interesting to pick and learn from him.”

Machado and Scoop climbed the Baltimore farm system together and were competitive in everything, including who had the strongest shooting arm. They continued to improve as chess players until their matches became something of an approximate attitude, a complete garbage talk that still resonates today.

Who won more?

“Come on, that’s not even an issue,” said Scoop, who now plays a second base (and plenty of chess) for the Detroit Tigers. “I allowed him to beat me several times to make me feel good. If we played 100 times, he would probably defeat me 10 times. “

Machado laughs when it is handed to him – and corrects Scoop’s math.

“Honestly, he was a little rude at first because he knew a little more than I did when I started,” Machado said. “But after I learned to make a few moves, he had no chance against me. Now it’s probably 70/30 – I’m 70, he’s 30.

Then Machado came forward: “I do not think he could win the match against me now. He will not even get in the way of his queen. It would end. ”

However, Scoop says he knows “every step of the way”, especially one trend. “If you take the horse,” he said, referring to the knight, “he is finished.”

Kirby agreed. “The horse is too big for him,” he said. “He likes this horse.”

Kirby and Scoop said the games between the players sometimes escalated into an argument because both were very competitive. Sometimes Scoop said Machado accused him of treason.

“They could not get to 100 games, they were arguing too much,” Kirby said. “They were composed in it, because as soon as you touch your queen or something and then remove her hand, you are done. Both of them argued that they had not removed the piece. ”

Machado has access to everything – and everything – in San Diego this season. As of Thursday, his average of 0.383 shots, 46 shots and 27 conceded goals all led the Majors. At the age of 29, he is already ranked 19th in the MLB’s list of active players (1471) and 18th in the Home Rankings (258).

Albert Pugols and Miguel Cabrera are nearing the end of their famous careers, seemingly waiting for the next member of the 3,500-hit, 500-room club. But Machado’s unusual combination of youth, production and endurance could make him a candidate for this fraternity one day.

Machado called Cabrera “the best striker I have ever seen” and spoke enthusiastically about its production.

“I know the game is changing a bit, but there is no longer a striker who comes out and gets 3,000 shots, 500 homers – and 600 doubles, right?” Said Machado. “This is confusion.”

That’s what Machado is trying to be, and that’s what he’s like, after a painful left shoulder injury last summer that left him unable to lift his hand for some time. He still played 153 games, refused to be included in the injury list and still smiles brazenly while refusing to make an accurate diagnosis of the injury. (“I can not say that. I can not tell. I do not know what it was. I’m not sure what it was.”).

This is the whole package of Slager, Star Defender, Chief of Staff and King of Chess, who made him the team leader for a club that has had problems in the recent past.

“You see him from afar and you have your opinion on him,” said manager Bob Melvin, who joined Padre out this season, about Machado, whose temperament has sparked several high-profile issues in the past. “And then come here and see what it is. It’s somewhat vocal, it really sets an example. It comes out every day to play. It comes out every day. There are subtle things in it that scream for leadership.”

Brdar, who started playing chess two seasons ago after watching The Queen Gambit, suggests there may be a connection between chess and hitting.

“You are going to take a bad step in chess, and often that is how you recover after that, instead of allowing two, three, four bad moves to leak in a row,” Brdar said. “It’s like a blow.

“You’re going to chase the pitch here and there, you’re going to miss the bugs here and there. But more often it ‘s about what you do next two, three, four pitches after that, or the next two, three, four bats after that. I think some parallels exists”.

Machado agreed, noting that “you are training your brain to do something right. “People are reading, people are doing little puzzles to activate the mind.”

Chess for Machado plays this role.

He and Brady play “slow” games on the board in front of Machado’s closet – if the striking coach walks into the club building and sees Mani resign, for example, Brdar will stop and do it on his own and vice versa. Then, after meeting the strikers or training the batting, they will play more games on the board in the players’ hall.

“Now he is playing Fiancheto with his bishop,” Brdar said of Machado’s opening strategy in many games. “So he likes his bishop to have a visual diagonal of the whole board.”

“This is my step,” Machado said. “When I saw ‘Queen Gambit’, I did not really know the names at that time. I still do not have so many. I know a few. But that explains it all. If you put yourself in a good position and start attacking and defending it in some way, you can do it. This is one of the steps I use the most. “

Brdar proudly reports that he has learned to close this move. Machado sadly admits that the striking coach has won three of their games this season, while Machado has only once, once a draw.

“But this is a long year,” Machado said. “The spells are changing. It’s like baseball. You go on the hot line, you go on the cold line. Now I’m on my cold series.”

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