BRADENTON, Fla. -- Manny Machado grew up in Miami and won gold with Team USA at the Pan American Junior Championships, alongside Bryce Harper, in 2009.But Machado has spoken of the 2017 World Baseball Classic as one way to show gratitude to his Dominican-born parents. He acted upon those feelings
BRADENTON, Fla. -- Manny Machado grew up in Miami and won gold with Team USA at the Pan American Junior Championships, alongside Bryce Harper, in 2009.
But Machado has spoken of the 2017 World Baseball Classic as one way to show gratitude to his Dominican-born parents. He acted upon those feelings as far back as last July, when he met with Dominican Republic general manager Moises Alou at the MLB All-Star Game and made clear where his allegiances would be.
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Then came Monday's reality: Machado arrived to the defending Classic champions' training base at Pirate City, walked into the clubhouse and saw the DOMINICANA jersey hanging in his locker.
:: 2017 World Baseball Classic ::
"I got chills," said Machado, still smiling hours later. "Once I put it on, it was worth the wait."
And, he said, it felt right.
"It always did," added Machado, the Orioles' three-time All-Star. "I was excited to come in and be a part of this. As soon as I put it on ... it's always felt right. It's been feeling right. It feels like I'm part of them. They mess around with me a little bit, but I'm excited to be here, be part of this journey and always represent the Dominican Republic in the right way."
Wait a minute: Machado said his teammates already like to "mess around" with him.
Care to elaborate?
"Just making fun of me for speaking English -- that I can speak both languages," Machado said with a grin. "It's pretty funny."
One item of business Monday was conducted entirely in Spanish: After manager Tony Peña addressed players at an introductory meeting, they took turns speaking to their peers during a closed-door session that ran overtime -- for all the right reasons.
"It's completely different," Machado said. "You see how much we care for wearing this jersey. This is not just going out there and playing baseball. It implicates a lot more. It implicates a lot of different things. You're playing for the Dominican Republic. You're playing for a lot of fans out there. You're playing for a lot of people. They're going to be watching.
"You have to take it in. Being part of that, hearing what everyone had to say, it was delightful."
For Machado, perhaps the most meaningful words of all have come from his mother, Rosa Núñez. He recalled what she'd told him recently: "Manny, I've been waiting for this moment always. Every day, I feel like crying, knowing you're going to do this for me."
Of note for those interested in purchasing Machado's Dominican jersey: He's wearing No. 3 in the Classic, because 13 -- his number with the Orioles -- was reserved for Hanley Ramirez.
Ramirez has withdrawn from WBC 2017 due to injury, but Machado is comfortable staying with No. 3. After all, that was his number in Little League, high school and the Minors. (Ryan Flaherty, who has more MLB service time, wears it in Baltimore.) And there's a certain poignancy to Machado wearing his childhood number at Marlins Park, four miles away from the ballfields of his alma mater, Brito Miami Private School.
There's certain to be plenty of interest among his old schoolmates in Saturday's game: Team USA vs. Team Dominican Republic, before what's already been announced as a sold-out crowd in Little Havana. Watch the 6:30 p.m. ET game on MLB.TV and MLB Network.
"That's going to be crazy," Machado said. "I don't know how it's going to be. Everyone keeps talking about it. I'm looking forward to that day. It's definitely going to be a memorable one."
• Machado said he's ready to play shortstop or third base in the tournament, depending on the team's needs. With Adrian Beltre (calf) expected to be available for Pool C, it's increasingly likely Machado will begin the tournament at shortstop. But if Beltre is unable to play in the field on consecutive days, Machado can slide back to third, allowing Jean Segura or Jose Reyes to play shortstop. While third base remains his customary position with the Orioles, Machado said he's most comfortable at shortstop.
• Blue Jays right fielder Jose Bautista went through some infield drills at first base alongside Carlos Santana, who is expected to be the everyday player there. Peña said Bautista, a former infielder, told him he's willing to play any position in order to contribute.
• Danilo Díaz, sports minister for the Dominican Republic's federal government, attended Monday's workout. He told MLB.com that his goal is to host an MLB game in the Dominican Republic by the end of his term in 2020. Estadio Quisqueya in Santo Domingo is the most plausible location, although structural improvements likely would be required for MLB to approve any proposal.
• The World Baseball Classic runs through March 22. In the U.S., games air live exclusively in English on MLB Network and on an authenticated basis via MLBNetwork.com/watch, while ESPN Deportes and WatchESPN provide the exclusive Spanish-language coverage. MLB.TV Premium subscribers in the U.S. have access to watch every tournament game live on any of the streaming service's 400-plus supported devices. The tournament is being distributed internationally across all forms of television, internet, mobile and radio in territories excluding the U.S., Puerto Rico and Japan. Get tickets for games at Marlins Park, Tokyo Dome, Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul, Estadio Charros de Jalisco in Mexico, Petco Park, as well as the Championship Round at Dodger Stadium, while complete coverage -- including schedules, video, stats and gear -- is available at WorldBaseballClassic.com.
Jon Paul Morosi is a columnist for MLB.com.