Machado: I've been waiting for this for a long time
Manny Machado walked into his first news conference looking every bit like an 18-year-old kid, not a multi-millionaire draft pick charged with helping rebuild a franchise.
The baby-faced high school shortstop was dressed in a baggy Aberdeen IronBirds jersey that looked at least a size too big, and it conjured up images of a kid wearing his father's dress shirt to the senior formal. He wore his black IronBirds hat pulled down low on his head so that his ears stuck out. Then Machado smiled, flashing a wide grin for the cameras.
It was a good reminder that although Machado is next in line to audition for the role of franchise savior after signing a $5.2 million deal following the Orioles' selection of him with the third overall pick, he's still a teenager.
"I'm excited for tonight," said Machado, who hit .639 with 12 homers and 68 RBIs in 29 games for the Brito School in Miami. "I've been waiting for this for a long time. It's going to be a good day today."
Machado -- who has already played two games with the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League Orioles and hit a two-run home run -- was expected to play at least six innings at shortstop for the IronBirds, the Orioles short-season Single-A affiliate. The team is in the final week of its season meaning anyone wanting to get an early look at Machado will have a limited window. He's not likely to play winter ball.
"For now, I'm just getting used to the professional life," Machado said. "Just going out there every day, giving 100 percent [is my goal]. Next year will be a different goal. But this year will be just going out there, having fun, and getting used to it."
Machado said he hasn't spoken to Cal Ripken Jr. yet, although he admitted that Ripken was one of his idols growing up. Eventually, his admiration for Ripken was overtaken by his devotion to Alex Rodriguez, who like Machado grew up in Miami and has roots in the Dominican Republic.
But Machado never forgot what it was like to watch Ripken when his budding love for the game was in its earliest stages. Ripken is a player he's hoping he'll be worthy enough, someday, of being compared to.
"I'm just going to have to go out there and give 110 percent like he did and if I do get compared to him, it would be good," Machado said.
Machado has been working with former Orioles shortstop Mike Bordick since signing with the team. Bordick recently rejoined the Orioles as their minor league offensive coordinator.
"He's a great guy, he knows his stuff. He's taught me a lot these past couple days I've been with him," Machado said.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter, taking advantage of a rare day off, was even at the park tonight, eager to get a look at the franchise's newest infield prospect. Machado, however, said he didn't expect to be nervous.
"I've never had butterflies in my life," he said. "But I suppose anything is possible."
Machado said the Orioles have been showing plenty of patience with him, and were just easing him into the routine of professional baseball. But he's already dreaming of the day he gets that phone call promoting him to the major leagues.
"I believe I'll be up there young," Machado said. "It's up to me too. It's not only up to the club. I've got to do what I was picked to do. I've got to work hard and show people what I was paid to do."