Shooting star: Machado takes fast track to ASG
O's 21-year-old third baseman 'blessed' to be in Midsummer Classic in first full season
NEW YORK -- Orioles third baseman Manny Machado, like any ballplayer, always dreamed of being a Major League All-Star -- he just never imagined it would come so soon.
Just 21 years old and in the midst of his first full big league season, Machado is already making his first All-Star appearance. At this time a year ago, the American League reserve third baseman for Tuesday's All-Star Game at Citi Field (7:30 p.m. ET on FOX) was the starting shortstop for Double-A Bowie.
The Orioles phenom made his Major League debut on Aug. 9 last season, nearly one month after the 2012 Midsummer Classic was played in Kansas City. He's taken full advantage of his first opportunity to be selected for a Major League All-Star Game this season, hitting .310 with seven home runs and 45 RBIs, while playing spectacular defense at the hot corner.
"Just being a part of this selected group is something that everyone dreams about," Machado said. "It's just an honor to have this opportunity, and honestly it really hasn't sunken in yet."
Naturally a shortstop, the Orioles knew Machado was capable of holding his own defensively. Yet, this season, the third overall pick in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft has also rounded into form at the plate.
At the All-Star break, Machado easily leads the Major Leagues with 39 doubles. The AL's starting catcher for Tuesday night, Joe Mauer of the Twins, is a distant second with 30.
Not only is Machado roping doubles at a greater frequency than any other player this season, but he is doing so at a nearly unprecedented rate. His 39 two-baggers are the second most ever hit before the All-Star break, just three shy of Mariners designated hitter Edgar Martinez's record set in 1996.
"I'm just doing what I can control at the plate and trying not to do too much, really," Machado said. "I've just been going out there trying to play baseball, taking it day by day, and the most important thing is that we keep coming up with wins."
Already a talented defender, Machado is coming into his own at the plate, and that has truly turned him into an all-around threat. The former shortstop started his rapid transition to third base last season with Bowie. He made just two starts at the hot corner with Bowie before he found himself adjusting to the new position on the big league stage, skipping Triple-A altogether.
Through it all, Machado showed few signs, if any, of uneasiness at the hot corner. He regularly turns in highlight-reel plays, often leaving his teammates in awe of his defensive prowess.
"I don't think there's any way that I could do what he's done," said J.J. Hardy, Machado's teammate and the starting AL shortstop. "Really not playing any games in the Minor Leagues -- just two, I think -- at third base in the Minors. Then to come up and, the first day in the big leagues, play third base and be as good as he has -- I don't think people realize how good of an athlete he is to be able to make that transition so easily."
Machado is one of a record 39 first-time All-Stars named to this season's game, a list that includes Orioles teammates Chris Davis and Chris Tillman. Machado's initial All-Star appearance comes one year after fellow phenoms Bryce Harper of the Nationals (first overall pick in 2010) and the Angels' Mike Trout (25th overall pick in 2009) participated in their first Midsummer Classics. Both Harper and Trout are in the starting lineup this season for their respective league.
"I think we are seeing a rash, or influx, of tremendous young talent that really is changing our game," said National League manager Bruce Bochy. "I think they are just getting better, faster, bigger, stronger still, and it's impressive to watch these guys."
As one of the game's brightest young stars, Machado has already had a number of highlights in his brief big league career. Following his late-season promotion in 2012, Machado helped the Orioles reach the postseason for the first time since '97, and he now finds himself a part of Baltimore's largest All-Star contingent since that same '97 season.
"I can't believe how fast everything has happened," Machado said. "I was just excited to be in the big leagues when I got called up. Then, obviously, we made the playoffs as a team, and now to be here in my first All-Star Game surrounded by all these guys -- I just feel truly blessed."
The final phase of All-Star Game voting will again have fans participating in the official voting for the Ted Williams All-Star Game Most Valuable Player Award presented by Chevrolet. During the Midsummer Classic, fans will vote exclusively online at MLB.com via the 2013 All-Star Game MLB.com MVP Vote, and their voice will represent 20 percent of the official vote determining the recipient of the Arch Ward Trophy.
The 2013 All-Star Game will be played at Citi Field on Tuesday. Come to MLB.com for extensive online coverage of the All-Star Week festivities.
The 84th All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX Sports, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS, and worldwide by partners in more than 200 countries via MLB International's independent feed. ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide national radio coverage of the All-Star Game. MLB Network and SiriusXM also will also provide comprehensive All-Star Week coverage. For more information, please visit allstargame.com.