Born and raised in Hialeah, Florida, Manny Machado grew up going to Marlins games in Miami. Baseball was a key component in the Dominican household Machado was raised in.
After being selected third overall out of high school in the 2010 MLB draft, Machado has experienced many highs and some very deep lows in his young MLB career.
Read about how Machado’s upbringing and experiences in the MLB continue to change him as a person and how his Knight mentality has shown itself through his career and life:
“Especially with Manny, I feel like he’s matured more and more,” said Machado’s close friend, second baseman Jonathan Schoop, as Machado was heading into his sixth MLB season. “He’s become a leader a little bit more, done a lot of talking to the young guys. He’s young too, but he’s talking with guys who haven’t made it to the big leagues, trying to help them.”
This development in character is a result of a confluence of events; from two major knee injuries, to roles in bench clearing brawls, and much more.
“I think you’ve seen, really, two chapters for him,” said Indians first baseman and Machado’s brother-in-law Yonder Alonso in an interview for an MLB.com profile on Machado. “You saw his younger days at [age] 20-21 just coming up to the big leagues — and you are seeing him now evolve and understand he has to learn from his mistakes and get better. He is helping these younger guys learn from him. He’s really a special player, and I’m excited for what we’re about to see.”
Knights have trouble dealing with conflict, and get upset when their personal values have become compromised. Throughout his career, especially early on, Manny Machado displayed these weaknesses by acting out against opponents when he thought they were in the wrong, without reflecting on his role in these conflicts.
“The only thing you can really control is if you learn from the mistakes that you made,” Machado said. “I hate watching those [old] videos. But I still did those things, at the same time. Obviously, I learned from them and tried to improve from those [incidents]. I try to be the best teammate I can. I think everyone in this clubhouse knows they can count on me as a person and as a player.”
It’s these sort of changes those closest to Machado, the one’s a Knight athlete are most protective of, have noticed the most.
“Manny has just grown as a person,” said Machado’s wife, Yainee Machado. “That all happened a really long time ago. As he’s gotten more experience, I think he wants to be more of the team leader. He wants the new guys coming in to follow his steps, and he wants to do the right thing.”
Machado’s wife mentions that Machado is a very warm and caring person once he becomes comfortable with you, a common trait amongst Knights. They typically seem tough to get to know from the outside, but once you work your way into earning their trust– you see how warm and caring they truly are.
“Once you get to know him, he’s got a huge heart. He’s goofy, has a great personality, really cares a lot about other people,” Yainee said. “He loves baseball, loves his teammates, loves what he does — and that’s what drives him to become a better person [on] the field and [off] of the field. He just loves it so much, no matter what.”
This growth is a testament to Machado, who has probably listened to people he respects and started to think more before acting, growing more into his Knight mentality.
His respect for his mentors and key figures in his life expands to every aspect of Machado’s life. It all starts with his upbringing and his strong family ties. Last offseason, Machado decided to represent the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic, despite being born and raised in Miami.
The reason? His late grandfather, and the profound impact he had on Machado’s life. In a Players’ Tribune article he wrote, Machado describes how his Dominican roots shaped his life and his path to the baseball diamond.
“He [my grandpa] always talked about bunting. I didn’t understand it. I was a kid. I wanted to hit home runs and steal bases and slide and get dirty. I didn’t want to bunt,” Machado said. “But my grandfather always preached to me that I should be not just a good hitter and a good fielder, but that I should also be a complete player. He preached the details.”
It wasn’t just his grandfather though, his mother and uncle also shaped him into the all-world ball player and man we see today.
When talking about his mother, Machado says: “She also worked just about every day throughout my childhood, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., to make to make sure that our family had food on the table and new clothes when we needed them. I wouldn’t say we were poor, but we didn’t have much money. And she worked hard to make sure we had everything we needed.”
And his uncle; “Then there’s my Uncle Gio. He, along with my grandfather, was a father figure to me,” Machado said. “My Uncle Gio not only taught me how to play the game and how to be tough, but he also went out of his way to make time to work with me. He was my first coach. I don’t think I would be where I am today without him.”
To show the honor and respect he has for his tight familial upbringing, Machado donned the Dominican Republic jersey last summer, with other professional Dominican players he also considers close to family.
“Machado doesn’t hide the fact that the opportunity to play alongside his Dominican friends such as Cruz, Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre and Seattle Mariners second baseman Robinson Cano played into his decision,” reads a Baltimore Sun article about Machado’s decision to represent the DR at the WBC. “He looked up to them all coming up, and as a major leaguer has observed their approaches, adding little things to his own routine. They’ve always been willing to help him on his path to becoming one of the game’s top players.”
The older Dominican players act as mentors for young Dominican’s as they transition into the Big Leagues. This bond is something Machado cherishes, and he respects those who paved the way before him. Now, he has begun to do the same for even younger players coming up– developing into the leader he is now.
The World Baseball Classic is likely an experience he’ll never forget– a chance to represent his family’s home country and a show of respect to his biggest role model: his grandfather.
“To this day, before every game I play, when I take the field for the first time I bend down and draw the initials FN in the dirt. Francisco Nunez. My grandfather. Mi abuelo,” Machado says. “I do it just to know that even though he’s not here to see me play, he’ll always be right there by my side.”