LOS ANGELES -- If you don't understand why the name on the back of Manny Machado's Players' Weekend uniform is "El Ministro," you must have missed last year's World Baseball Classic.
Remarkable plays by Machado, playing third base for the Dominican Republic, to rob Venezuela's Alcides Escobar and Jose Cabrera of hits, triggered a social media frenzy that proclaimed Machado "El Ministro de Defensa," or The Minister of Defense, and the name has stuck.
Since Machado's arrival in a July 18 5-for-1 trade with Baltimore, Dodgers fans have already seen a glimpse of his defensive talents. They've also seen his flair and persona, which is what Players' Weekend is all about, allowing MLB players to showcase personalities and interests.
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Along with using colorful and specially designed bats, spikes, batting gloves, wristbands, compression sleeves and catcher's equipment, players will wear nicknames on the back of their jerseys.
Machado is known mostly for his slugging, but his choice of a defensive nickname reflects the importance he places on what he lists as the greatest of his five tools.
"Honestly, my glove, since I was a kid, is No. 1," said Machado, a two-time Gold Glove Award winner. "People say I have all five tools or whatever, but I always take pride in my glove, for sure. I always take pride in my defense."
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Machado can simply field balls with a smooth and effortless style that peers envy. And he said it's been that way for decades.
"Since I was 6, 5, maybe 4. I was always able to play like that," said the 26-year-old. "I would throw tennis balls or racquetballs against the wall for hours, anything that would bounce a lot. I would break windows, just throwing, fielding them barehanded until I got older and got a glove. Work on my hand-eye [coordination], and it just stuck."
With the game's infatuation over slugging, some players let the defense slide once they've become established. Not Machado.
"I want to be an overall great player," said Machado. "I don't want to be known for just doing one thing. I want to be great at all of them. If I have to work a little more at one, I do. I know how I am defensively and maybe I don't have to work as hard at it, but you always want to keep it crisp."