You only play your first major league game once and for Manny Machado that one time is tonight.
The 20-year-old, 2010 O’s first-round pick will bat ninth and play third base at Camden Yards against the Kansas City Royals in his major league debut.
“I just want to go out and be myself. Do what I’ve been doing the last two weeks and the last two years. Go out there and just have fun,” Machado said.
Machado will have six family members here to watch his first big league game including his mother, a sister, an aunt and uncle, a nephew and his girlfriend.
Machado found out last night he would be headed to Baltimore.
“I found out coming off the bus at the team hotel. I was very surprised,” Machado said. “I wasn’t looking ... It wasn’t even crossing my mind I could get called up. When (Bowie manager Gary Kendall) gave me the news I was just in shock.”
Machado made sure last night to talk with his uncle, Geovany Brito, someone that he has said taught him a lot about the game. He said his uncle was emotional during that phone call last night.
But before that, Machado said his first call was to his mother.
“I was kind of in shock when Gary told me,” he said. “I didn’t know what to say. I was tingling everywhere. Once I settled in, I told my mom, ‘You have to look for a flight to come to Baltimore.’ She said, ‘Why?’ I told her I’m going to Baltimore to play tomorrow. She thought I was lying. We shared that moment together and it was a great feeling.
“This is what I worked for my whole life, this is what I’ve dreamed about my life and this moment has come. It’s a great feeling.”
In those dreams Manny might not have seen himself starting at third base, but he will be there tonight. He knows it will be different there in the game than it is taking ground balls from coaches in practice. But he is confident about that challenge.
“I’m very comfortable out there at third base,” he said. “Every day I’ve tried to take grounders there at third, after I take my grounders at short. I’m pretty comfortable (at third) and looking forward to it but have to get used to playing there every day. At short, you are the captain of the team out there.”
Machado said he would rely a lot on shortstop J.J. Hardy for some defensive help.
“A lot. He’s been around this league a long time and he knows how to play hitters. Anything I need, I can go to him and he can help me position myself,” he said.
Machado got to know many of the Orioles players during spring training, and some of those same players welcomed him to the team earlier today.
“It was great,” Machado said. “Everyone came up to me and congratulated me. I’ve been thinking about this for a long time, and it’s finally here. This is the highest level, but I’m still going to go out and just play my game, not put too much pressure on myself and have fun.”
“I kind of envisioned it (a possible call-up) around this time,” Machado said. “Maybe a September call-up, but I didn’t set any goals on it. I just wanted to get my experience in the minors. But being here means a lot. It means Buck has faith and trust in me that I can help this team.”