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Really good ESPN article on Manny Machado

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The article is dated last month, but I haven't seen it mentioned before. My apologies if it has.

From the uncle who helped raise him in the absence of his father to the cousins who let him tag along at their high school and travel league games, Machado has been immersed in baseball since his childhood. To make sure he was never left out, Machado took his bat everywhere he went, happily swinging it through the air while anxiously awaiting his turn to play.

These countless hacks soon helped him develop a sweet swing that has made Machado effective in almost every hitting situation.

“He doesn’t get anxious at the plate and he’s able to maintain a short swing that helps him recognize the pitch a bit longer,” says 18U National Team coach Garye LaFevers. “He’s good enough to foul off a pitch when he needs to and can jump on an inside pitch and go to left field.”

Such ability and awareness stem from a tireless work ethic that isn’t always seen in natural athletes like Machado. Along with countless hours of studying major league games on TV, Machado says he takes pride in the subtle nuances of batting practice and fielding ground balls.

“I know I have to earn everything I have and that’s when my work ethic kicks in,” Machado says. “Working hard and practicing is what will separate me from being a regular person and a great player.”

A few games later, Machado’s defensive prowess became evident. The shortstop backhanded a ball deep in the hole and fired a throw to first base for the out. Then, in the following inning, Machado snagged a similar grounder and recorded another out at second. But this was no routine play.

“The runner going from first to second was a little bit slower than the runner going to first from home,” LaFevers recalls, “and Manny noticed that enough to make the right play. He’s a true student of the game.”

Such innate skills bode well for a player who’s garnered as much attention as Machado. With scouts consistently in the stands and showcases regularly on his schedule, it’d be understandable for Machado to grow weary under the pressure.

Instead, he simply beams his contagious smile, displaying a quiet confidence that’s yielded results since his first at-bat with the Panthers.

“There’s very few times that Manny has failed in big-game situations,” Fundora points out. “Those games that he has had some trouble, I focus on those because you want to see how a player is going to react. Manny always keeps his head and keeps smiling, and that’s what will make him great at the next level.”


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