Mini Machado brings chess (and hits) to Pedres.

Mini Machado brings chess (and hits) to Pedres.

SAN DIEGO – The infantry are lined up and the shining white knight is ready to attack. As soon as the Hutters meeting is over, the game will resume shortly before the star third baseman’s box score clears.

Given Mani Machado’s tough start to the San Diego Pedres this season, it is safe to predict that the five-time All-Star will be playing chess while his teammates are playing checkers. But in the case of Machado, the same is true: when he is not hitting the opponent’s pot and stealing hits with acrobatic defense dramas, Machado keeps his mind sharp with silent reflection on the chess board. Can be found.

“Chess is interesting,” said Machado, who learned the game in 2017 from Brady Anderson, a former player and Orioles executive in Baltimore. You have to think about what your opponent is thinking, what he is trying to do to you, how he is trying to attack you. “

The game made Machado interesting from the start. He puts a board on a small table between his locker and his clubhouse neighbor, Fernando Tates Jr., and another board in the nearby players’ lounge. And during the winter, he plays at home with his father-in-law, Luis Alonso, the father of former big lender Under Alonso.

When Tatis Jr. revealed last season that he occasionally plays chess, Machado began bringing a board to the park for matches in his spare time, as he did in Baltimore.

“If you play every day, you’re at war with him,” said Van Kirby, the Mets’ first base coach and Machado’s regular opponent, both in Baltimore and then in San Diego last summer.

Kirby said that in Machado’s time there were so many Orioles playing chess that players waited in line and said “I get August” like on a court for a pick-up basketball game, Kirby said, and finally the team. Placed three chess boards in the clubhouse and one for road trips. Machado said he is still recruiting new opponents in San Diego, thus matching outfielders Will Myers and Trace Thompson, who were nominated for assignments this week (in baseball, Not in chess). Machado has also played a bit with Tate Jr.

His regular rival, Michael Bardar, is San Diego’s first-year hitting coach.

“It was fun,” Bardar said. “She is OK. She is OK.”

Machado remembers the first time he and his main Orioles nemesis, Jonathan Shop, played a game. Machado said it was in Seattle in 2017. Both were early, so raw that Machado said their first game lasted only three minutes.

“We both sucked,” Machado said. “It was interesting to pick it up and learn from it.”

Machado and Shop climbed together through Baltimore’s farm system and were competitive in everything, including the strongest throwing arm. He continued to improve as a chess player until his matches came close to an addiction, a complete trash conversation that still resonates today.

Who won more?

“Come on, that’s not a question,” said Shop, who now plays second base (and a lot of chess) for the Detroit Tigers. “I let him hit me twice just to make him feel good. If we played 100 times he would beat me 10 times.

Machado laughs when he is told this – and corrects the math of the scope.

“Honestly, it was a little rough at first because he knew a little bit more than I did when I started,” Machado said. “But once I learned to do a couple of tricks, he had no chance against me. Now, it’s probably 70/30 – I’m 70, he’s 30.

Machado continued: “I don’t think he can win a game against me now. He won’t be able to get his queen out of the way. He would have done it.”

Schoop, though, claims to know “all the tricks of the mini,” especially a trend. “If you snatch the horse from him,” he said, referring to Knight, “he’s done.”

Kirby agreed. “The horse is too big for Mani,” he said. “She likes that horse.”

Kirby and Shoppe said the games between the players sometimes turn into arguments because the two were very competitive. At times, Shoppe said, Machado accused him of cheating.

“They won’t be able to reach 100 games, they will argue a lot,” Kirby said. “They’re going to get into it because once you touch your queen or something, and then remove your hand from it, you’re done. They’re both claiming to have their hand.” Not removed from any piece.

In San Diego this season, Machado has a hand – and I – in everything. As of Thursday, his .383 batting average has led all the big players to score 46 hits and 27 runs. At 29, he is already the 19th most active player on the MLB’s hit list (1,471) and the 18th at home runs (258).

With Albert Pojols and Miguel Cabrera approaching the end of their popular careers, it looks like the next member of the 3,000-hit, 500-homer club will have to wait a long time. But Machado’s extraordinary combination of youth, productivity and stability could one day make him a candidate for the community.

Machado called Cabrera “the best hitter I’ve ever seen” and praised his production.

“I know the game is changing a bit, but now there’s no hitter like that who can go out and get 3,000 hits, 500 homers – and 600 doubles, right?” Machado said. “It’s slugging.”

This is the kind of hitter that Machado tries, and the same hitter that he was unable to lift his arm for once after a traumatic left shoulder injury last summer. He still plays 153 games, refuses to be on the injured list, and still smiles with a smile, refusing to show an accurate diagnosis of injury. (“I can’t say that. I can’t tell you. I don’t know what it was. I’m not sure what it was.”)

It’s a complete package of sluggers, star fielders, lineup staples and the kingpin of chess that has made him a team leader for a club he has had problems with in the recent past.

“You see it from afar and you have an opinion on it,” said manager Bob Mellon, who joined Pedres in this off-season, about Machado, who went through early career problems. Have played a leading role. “And then you get here and see what he is. He’s somewhat vocal, of course guiding. He appears to play every single day. He performs every single day. His There are subtle things about the leadership that are screaming.

Bardar, who started playing chess after watching “The Queen’s Gambit” two winters ago, suggested that there could be a connection between chess and hitting.

“You’re going to make a bad move in chess, and there are times when you get better at it instead of letting it leak into two, three, four bad moves in a row,” Bardar said. “It simply came to our notice then.

“You’re going to chase a pitch here and there, and you’ll remember a mistake here and there. What the next two, three, four bets do next. I think they’re definitely parallel.

Machado agreed, “You are training your brain to do something right. People read, people do small puzzles to stimulate their brains.

For Machado, chess fills that role.

He and the bearer play a “slow” game on board in front of Machado’s locker – if the hitting coach passes by the clubhouse and sees that Minnie has made a move, for example, the bearer will stop and play his game. Will make, and vice versa. Then, after the Hutters meeting or batting practice, they will play long games on the board in the Players Lounge.

“Right now he’s playing a fiance with his bishop,” Bardar said of Machado’s early strategy in many games. “So he likes his bishop to have the whole visual slant of the whole board.”

“It’s my move,” Machado said. “When I saw The Queen’s Gambit, I didn’t really know the names at the time. I still don’t do that. I know a few. But it’s all about opening up. If you like yourself. You can do this if you keep in position and start attacking in a certain way and you stick to it. This is one of the tricks I use the most. “

Bardar proudly reports that he has learned to stop this move. Machado sadly admits that in his games so far this season, Hunting Coach has won three times and Machado only once, with a tie.

“But it’s been a long year,” Machado said. “Things change. It’s just like baseball. You go to a hot stream, you go to a cold stream. I’m on my cold right now.”

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