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With Orioles' future hanging in balance, Tim Beckham and teammates at club holiday party

Jon Meoli
Contact ReporterThe Baltimore Sun

Right around the end of the OriolesREACH Holiday Party, an event that has been held for nearly four decades and features the team's stars and local schoolchildren sharing an afternoon together every December, the contents of a high-top table crashed to the ground away from the dining students.

It was an accident, of course, with the tablecloth getting caught beneath shortstop Tim Beckham's feet as he got up to hand out his autographed cards to the 80 students from Southeast Baltimore's John Ruhrah Elementary/Middle School.

That it wasn't a symptom of shock or distraction and simply was a misstep is a credit to Beckham, plus teammates Trey Mancini and Mike Wright, who spent Tuesday morning playing games with the students, serving them lunch and handing out bundles of Orioles gifts at the Dave & Busters at Arundel Mills.

They were so locked in to the event that they had no idea that the buzz out of baseball's winter meetings in Florida was surrounding teammate Manny Machado's desire to play Beckham’s position — shortstop — in 2018, along with the team's newfound willingness to talk trades on the 25-year-old All-Star as his free agency looms.

It hadn't yet reached Beckham when his table tumbled, but when asked later about his view of the situation, his surprise was palpable.

"Any ballclub in Major League Baseball would be better with Manny Machado on their team," Beckham said. "He's a great player, hell of a guy. As far as him moving over to shortstop, that's out of my [view]. That's something I don't even need to touch on. That's a front-office decision. If that's what he wants to do, he's going to talk to the front office about it. That's out of my reach. I'm just here enjoying the holidays right now, giving back to the kids, training back home and being ready to play 162 next year. I'm looking forward to next season."

Beckham's torrid two-month stretch with the Orioles earned him plenty of fans in Baltimore, though some on the field staff are concerned with the caliber of his defense. He said playing alongside Machado and second baseman Jonathan Schoop was motivating him to raise his game in the field, and is informing his offseason work.

"I'm embracing that challenge and I'm going to continue to challenge myself to get better on defense and be able to play with that caliber,” Beckham said. “That's what these guys are known for, and we want to get back to doing that.”

Machado's request, if he ends up starting 2018 in an Orioles uniform, could complicate that. But Beckham doesn't begrudge Machado for advocating for himself, or the Orioles for entertaining the ideas of either a position switch or a trade.

"That's just the game of baseball,” Beckham said. “That's the business side of baseball, and we understand that. Being major league-caliber players, we understand what goes into the game and everyone on the club, I can speak for everyone when I say we hope Manny comes back. It'll definitely give us a shot to make a run if we have Manny back, and me personally, I hope he comes back. But it's a business and he has to do what's best for his family and himself. I wish the best to him in the situation with what he's going through. More power to him, and I hope we get him back."

Such high-level baseball talk was otherwise delightfully absent from the event Tuesday’s event, where alumni Scott McGregor, Larry Bigbie and Al Bumbry joined the trio of current Orioles to host the 39th annual OriolesREACH Holiday Party. They roamed around the arcade to compete with the children, shooting each other sheepish looks when team announcer Jim Hunter asked the kids if any had beaten the Orioles stars and a few hands shot into the air. The students got Orioles Dugout Club backpacks with giveaways such as Orioles knit hats and Oriole bird bobbleheads, they took pictures with Santa Bird and enjoyed lunch served by the players.

Beckham was glad to come up from his offseason home in Georgia for the event.

"Just to get up here and be able to be a part of this and be able to give back is huge," Beckham said. "I know this is something they do every year. It's good to be a part of it."

Wright, who is getting married later this month and has had an active offseason between wedding planning, training and fundraising for his nonprofit (Wright State of Mind), didn't think twice about adding a trip to Baltimore to his calendar.

"It's not just the holiday season," Wright said. "It's good to give back at any time, especially to this community that's such loyal fans, and just to give back to these kids that may not always get this opportunity is definitely refreshing."

Mancini, who has spent most of the offseason in Washington, D.C., has been a frequent part of the team's off-field offseason activities, too.

"It feels great," Mancini said. "I'm really happy to be here and have a fun day with the kids, and that's what the Christmas season is all about — doing things like this and having a good time with the community."

jmeoli@baltsun.com

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