BALTIMORE -- Prior to each Major League game, kids gather around the dugout hoping for an autograph, a picture or a quick conversation with the players they idolize on the field. But prior to Friday's game, the roles were reversed when Orioles second baseman Jonathan Schoop eagerly approached 12-year-old Cahree
BALTIMORE -- Prior to each Major League game, kids gather around the dugout hoping for an autograph, a picture or a quick conversation with the players they idolize on the field. But prior to Friday's game, the roles were reversed when Orioles second baseman Jonathan Schoop eagerly approached 12-year-old Cahree Myrick to talk not about baseball, but chess.
Anyone who has stepped into the Orioles' clubhouse this season has likely seen a competitive chess match between players and coaches while others from the team watch.
"You think what your opponent is trying to do," Schoop said. "It's the same with hitting. You know, you got to think what the pitcher is trying to do with you. ... So I take it to the games too, you know? Thinking with them and what they want to do. What's their game plan, so I change my game plan. And if I have to change it during an at-bat, I do. Same with chess. You got to change the game plan sometimes, too."
No matter how many matches these Orioles had played against each other, nothing could have prepared them to face the U.S. National Champion of his youth division.
Myrick became the champion with a perfect score at the U.S. National Chess Tournament in Nashville, Tenn. The competition drew 249 participants from 28 different states, but the seventh-grader from Baltimore never dropped a contest.
"I like that [chess] takes a lot of strategy and mentality," Myrick said. "You can't be good just knowing how to move the pieces. It takes a lot of practice."
Myrick was in first grade when he received a flyer about chess at school. Once he went home and told his mother that he was interested in the game, he has not stopped playing.
After playing day after day, some of the Orioles who have become accustomed to winning against their teammates were quickly put in their place when Myrick visited the clubhouse, which prompted Schoop to seek some advice to advance his game.
"Yeah, [I asked for advice], because he's pretty good," Schoop said. "He's five moves ahead of us, you know? So we think we got him, and then he got like five different pieces right there. So, he's pretty good. ... Of course I'll take advice from him. I'm trying to get better so I beat Manny [Machado] and [first-base coach Wayne] Kirby easier."
Along with Schoop, the 12-year-old also played Machado, Kirby and Dylan Bundy. None of them stood a chance, although the first name that came to Myrick's mind when asked who gave him the best match was Schoop.
"I am really happy with that," Schoop said. "So, everybody knows I'm the best one in the clubhouse. He said it, right? I didn't say it."
Although Schoop approached Myrick after their match for individual advice, the National Champion had advice for everyone in the Orioles' clubhouse.
"Practice," Myrick said. "Practice a lot. Know more tactics and know how to think ahead."
Mandy Bell is a reporter for MLB.com based in Baltimore.