Column: Mannywood sequel is more reserved than the circus that came a decade ago
The newcomer found the silence in the locker room curious, with the players listening to music doing so with headphones, as was requested by their manager.
“Somebody turn on the music,” Manny said aloud.
From then on, there was music in the Dodgers clubhouse.
Matt Kemp laughed as he recalled the scene.
“That’s what he did,” Kemp said. “It was the coolest thing ever.”
The memory was from a decade ago and the Manny in question was Manny Ramirez.
The new Manny’s introduction to the Dodgers was considerably more low-key. Two days after he was acquired from the Baltimore Orioles, Manny Machado didn’t show up to Miller Park cracking jokes about wanting to explore possible roles in Spanish-language soap operas or making promises about cutting his hair that he had no intention of honoring, as Ramirez once did.
“I’m here to play baseball,” Machado said in his introductory news conference Wednesday.
The original Mannywood was a full-blown circus. Whatever this version turns out to be, it’s won’t be that.
Kemp knows Machado well. A couple of winters ago, the two All-Stars trained at the same hitting facility in Machado’s native Miami. Kemp’s former teammate on the San Diego Padres, Yonder Alonso, is Machado’s brother-in-law.
Machado described himself as a homebody, but Kemp said his personality was well suited for Los Angeles.
“He’s a Hollywood-like superstar,” Kemp said. “Did you see what he was wearing at the All-Star game?”
Gray suit, no shirt, no socks.
“He’s got swag,” Kemp said.
Starting at shortstop and batting second for the Dodgers in a 6-4 victory at Milwaukee, Machado strode to the batter’s box in the first inning with a wad of bubblegum in his mouth. Clutching the barrel of his bat in his right hand, Machado nonchalantly blew a bubble.
The right-handed-hitting Machado sent a 2-0 pitch from Wade Miley the opposite way for a single. Machado blew a bubble as he ran out of the batter’s box. He ran through first base. Another bubble. It was as if he was playing a game of stickball in the park with his friends.
“That’s my safe haven,” Machado said. “That’s where I can go out and just enjoy myself. I’ve been doing this since I was a kid. I’m always going to play the game with a smile on my face, blowing bubbles, sunflower seeds, whatever it is. That’s just who I am.”
Machado had promised to stay within himself and did.
Machado settled for a four-pitch walk in the third and another in the fifth. So, yes, he can chew gum and walk at the same time.
Machado finished the day two for three with two walks.
The fun-loving Kemp always welcomed the spotlight and was delighted to be near it again. Machado’s locker was only two away from his.
Kemp asked a nearby gathering of reporters, “Mannywood making you all wait? You have to wait for greatness, bro.”
Kemp laughed. Machado smiled shyly as he returned to his locker.
Machado isn’t the showman Kemp is or the court jester Ramirez was, but he still might have the qualities to win over his new celebrity-obsessed hometown.
He’s good-looking and well-spoken. In his introductory news conference before the game, he came across as earnest. He also had the smarts to align himself with the city’s sports royalty.
Asked why he switched from the No. 13 he wore with the Orioles to No. 8, Machado explained, “I thought I would change up — new beginning, new journey, new team.”
But there was something else: Kobe Bryant wore No. 8 early in his career.
“Huge Kobe fan growing up,” he said. “My dog’s name is Kobe.”
Machado was evasive when asked if he viewed Los Angeles as a potential long-term home. The 26-year-old will be a free agent this winter and is expected to sign a contract worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
“It’s been so fast, everything’s been going so crazy right now, I haven’t really thought about it,” he said.
He acknowledged he was anxious about meeting his new teammates.
“It’s like the first day of school,” he said. “You’re kind of nervous to come in here and meet new faces.”
What helped was watching a video posted on social media by Justin Turner’s wife showing Turner and Alex Wood high-fiving after learning of the Machado deal.
“Everyone’s been welcoming,” Machado said.
As for the comparisons to the other Manny, Machado said he didn’t feel burdened by them.
“Manny’s Manny,” Machado said. “He’s a great player, should be in the Hall of Fame, put up great numbers, great guy. Hopefully, I could do what he did, not just for the half that he was here or for the years that he was here, but his whole career.”
Of course, Ramirez didn’t win a World Series with the Dodgers and was suspended for violating baseball’s drug policy. If Machado can triumph where Ramirez failed, he can be something even greater to Los Angeles, with or without the dreadlocks and carnival atmosphere.
Follow Dylan Hernandez on Twitter @dylanohernandez
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