New former Oriole Manny Machado wasted no time before playing to his new fan base.
The Los Angeles Dodgers introduced him at a news conference Friday in Milwaukee, where he’ll make his debut in Dodger Blue tonight against the Brewers — one of the teams that also made a strong attempt to acquire him from the Orioles.
Machado announced that he had chosen to wear No. 8, but before Cal Ripken fans get too excited, he quickly pointed out that it was a tribute to longtime Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant.
“No, number eight was, I wanted to change up — new beginning, new jersey, new team — wanted to go that route. If I have to throw an athlete out there, huge Kobe fan growing up. My dog’s name is Kobe. That added to it as well, but new beginning.”
He stopped short of pulling one of those “I’ve always been a fill-in-the-local-team fan” moments, saying he has always been a Miami Heat fan — since he grew up there — but loved Kobe and has long been a fan of new Lakers superstar LeBron James.
More than anything else, Manny said, he is a big fan of the weather in Southern California, which would seem like a backhanded swipe at Maryland if everyone around here wouldn’t have said exactly the same thing in the same situation.
This has been a particularly bad weather season in the Mid-Atlantic region, and Manny got his last taste of it as an Oriole when the pregame festivities at the All-Star Game at Nationals Park in Washington were disrupted by a band of nasty thunderstorms.
But there were no parting shots at Baltimore or the Orioles. Quite the contrary.
“Baltimore will always have a piece of my heart,’’ he said. “I’ll definitely miss everyone out there. They’ve been great, but I’m ready to start this new journey and win in blue.”
Earlier in the day, Machado wrote a heartfelt Instagram message to his “Baltimore family,” thanking the fans, his teammates, the Angelos family, Dan Duquette, Buck Showalter and the coaching staff for helping him achieve his dream of becoming a baseball star.
He ended it with a personal message to best friend Jonathan Schoop.
“Schoopy,” he wrote, “I love you bro and I know you will carry the torch!!!”
Of course, any team that acquired Machado before the July 31 nonwaiver trade deadline would have been a contending club with a chance to reach the World Series, but he always seemed like a good fit for the Dodgers, who lost shortstop Corey Seager to a season-ending elbow injury in late April.
“Just excited to be here,’’ he said. “I know it’s a great group, a great organization, somewhere that has a lot of baseball history. So, to come here, just be myself, just fit in as another [piece] to the puzzle that’s around here. Just go out there and try to win some games for the ballclub.”
Throughout the runup to the trade, Machado told reporters in city after city that he was only interested in playing shortstop, the position he grew up playing and finally returned to this season with the Orioles. But he apparently is no longer as adamant about that, saying Friday that he is open to playing both shortstop and third base if it helps the Dodgers get to the World Series.
“I’m here to win,’’ he said. “At the end of the day, I want to win a ring. Everyone in [the Dodgers clubhouse] wants to win a ring. They fell short a little bit last year and they want to get back there and not just get back … to win it. Whatever I can do to make the process easier or better as a team, I’m up for it.”
Everyone assumed that Machado already knew he was on his way to L.A. when he snapped that selfie with Dodgers star Matt Kemp early Tuesday night, but he still claims he wasn’t 100 percent sure where he was going.
“It was kind of out there a little bit,’’ he said. “It was possible. … Actually I wanted to take a picture with everyone who was getting on second base. It just happened to be Matt was the first one to get there. Me and Matt go way back, so taking a picture with him, those memories will never be forgotten. Those are the things that I always want to keep.”
Sitting next to Machado at the news conference was Dodgers general manager Farhan Zaidi, who said that the negotiations with the Orioles had been going on for the past month and indicated that Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette drove a hard bargain.
“I know that conversations with the other teams were taking place over that whole period, too,” Zaidi said. “For a player of Manny’s caliber, you know you’re going to have to give up a lot, but that speaks to what we think this team can accomplish and to what a great player we think he is.”