Several months before his bat toss drew national headlines and a pending five-game suspension, Orioles third baseman Manny Machado wanted to find a way to give back to the city of Baltimore.
The 21-year-old had attended a few charity events in the offseason and decided he wanted to hold one in his in-season home, and so on Thursday’s day off, he held the first Manny Machado Celebrity BaseBowl bowling tournament to benefit the Baltimore City Recreation and Parks' Play Baseball summer program.
“I’m Miami 305 to the heart," said Machado, referencing the city's area code, "but Baltimore is my city, too. This is where I play, this is where I live half the year, so any way I can give back to this community here, it’s a great way and opportunity to do it.”
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With a decision on his suspension appeal looming — he had his appeal hearing before Wednesday’s game — Machado was eager to put the events of the past two weeks behind him.
“It’s been a long 24 hours,” Machado said. “But you know what? It’s a beautiful day, a great off day. We’re here trying to bowl a little bit. We’re going to take this off day and enjoy it and enjoy this charity event.
“Just waiting back to hear from it,” Machado added of his appeal. “We made our case yesterday. We went up and we got it done. So now it’s just a matter of time. … We’ll see. Hopefully, they give us a response in the next couple days; hopefully, it’s after tomorrow.”
Sponsors paid between $5,000 and $25,000 to share lanes with Machado and several Orioles teammates to benefit the city’s Play Baseball program, which introduces the game to kids 12 and under, providing them with uniforms, equipment and transportation at no cost.
At least a dozen Orioles players, including Nelson Cruz, J.J. Hardy and Nick Markakis, as well as manager Buck Showalter and vice president of baseball operations Brady Anderson, attended the event, bowling and mingling with fans on the team’s day off.
They also showed support for Machado and his cause.
“For all the players to show up, it shows that we support Manny in everything that he does,” outfielder Steve Pearce said. “We’ve got his back, and this is one of the ways we’re going to show it. We want to be here for him and we want him to know that.”
Machado spent most of the event mingling, kicking off the event with Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, receiving a proclamation from the City Council and shaking hands and posing for pictures with fans.
As for bowling, Machado acknowledged that he wasn’t very good.
“I hope I can get" to triple digits, Machado said, laughing. “I hope I get that high.”
Machado hopes the event can be an annual event, and joked that he would have to scout his teammates to see who the best bowlers were before assembling teams for next year’s event.
Pearce, who brought his own bowling ball rolling bag to the alley, said he bowls for fun, but that he was actually in a bowling league while playing for the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Double-A affiliate in Altoona, Pa.
“If I was to get into it hardcore, I’d have a [good] average,” Pearce said.