Manny Machado finds a welcoming family with Padres

Manny Machado finds a welcoming family with Padres
Manny Machado poses with his wife, Yainee Alonso, after he was introduced at a news conference on Feb. 22. (K.C. Alfred / San Diego Union-Tribune)

The silver Lamborghini sounds like it is ready for blastoff into space.

It belongs to Manny Machado, though, so it isn’t going anywhere but the rented home a few miles down the road.


To his wife and their dogs and to “El Señor de los Cielos” on Netflix.

“I only do it if it’s more four seasons,” Machado said of the base requirement for starting a series. “… All day, every day. Netflix is the first thing I turn on.”

The man who for the Padres launched a new era and a new attitude before he played a game — before he even arrived in their clubhouse — is a homebody.

“He’s a chill guy, simple,” Yonder Alonso said. “Very simple. … He’s home all day. He loves Netflix. He loves Apple TV. That’s all he does is watches his shows.”

The first thing Alonso, a first baseman for the Chicago White Sox, actually said when the topic of Machado was broached was, “No comment.”

Then he guardedly but passionately spoke about the man National League MVP Christian Yelich called a “dirty player” and who is now the Padres’ new third baseman and the source of renewed interest and pride in San Diego’s only major sports franchise.

“He’s chill, man,” Alonso said. “He just wants to play baseball. You’ll never see him going out. He doesn’t want to do commercials or anything. He just wants to play baseball.”

Alonso is biased, for sure. But that is because Machado earned it.

One of the things that sold the Padres on Macahado — made them willing to believe he was a good man when they had heard he might not be — was his relationship with Alonso.

Alonso played in San Diego from 2012 to ’15, at the start of this ownership group’s leadership.

They knew Alonso, knew his family and knew of their emigration from Cuba and the work ethic and character demanded by people who refused food stamps and worked multiple jobs.

What the Padres knew even before they began vetting Machado, the 26-year-old to whom they would commit $300 million, more than twice what the organization had ever given any player, was that anyone who earned their way into the Alonso family must have something going for him.

“You gotta be legit,” said Petey Suarez, a virtually lifelong family friend of Yonder and his sister, Yainee. “… Our parents are old-school Cubans. It’s a little different mentality, the way we were brought up.”

It took Machado two years to get a first date with Yainee.


“It was pretty tough,” Machado said.

They have been married a little more than four years.

Yainee gets up when her husband does at 5:30 a.m. during spring training. She goes on almost every road trip during the regular season, doesn’t miss a home game.

“She’s my sister, my best friend, she’s my everything,” Machado said. “She grinds as much as I grind.”

Padres third baseman Manny Machado talks goals, family, fashion and more -- including why the Padres were a right fit for he and his family -- in this first interview after signing a 10-year, $300 million dollar deal with the Padres.
Bringing the edge

There are video montages on the Internet showing this family man doing some pretty NSFW stuff.

There is Machado crossing first base and dragging his foot to kick Brewers first baseman Jesus Aguilar in October’s National League Championship Series, the play that prompted Yelich’s assessment. There is Machado, a pitch after being brushed off the plate, swinging and then letting go of a bat that flew down the third base line. There is Machado, a couple days earlier, yelling at Josh Donaldson after being tagged out by the A’s third baseman. There are a few bench-clearing brawls in which Machado is at the center. And there is one rant after he was thrown at a half-dozen times in the span of a week by the Boston Red Sox that in part went like this:

“If you're going to (expletive) hit me, go ahead, (expletive) hit me. You know, don't let (expletive) keep lingering around and (expletive) around. Keep (expletive) trying to hit people. That's (expletive) bull. MLB should do something about it. (Expletive) pitchers go out there with their (expletive) balls in their hand and throwing 100 mph trying to hit people. I got a (expletive) bat too. I can go up there and crush somebody if I wanted to, but you know what, I'll get suspended for the year and the pitcher will only get suspended for two games.”

Of these things, Machado has said he is embarrassed by some and has learned from them all.

“I learn from a lot of things,” he said this week. “I learned being a married man; I learn every day how to be a better husband. It’s the same thing in baseball. You learn on many things that life brings at you.”

Padres management, after talking to former coaches, managers, teammates and others around baseball and from Machado’s past, say Machado is still just 26 and point out he was as young as 21 when some of these things happened.

“I feel 100 percent confident in the work we did getting to know him,” Padres General Partner Peter Seidler said. “His authenticity — there is a lot about Manny that is a 1-on-1 guy. He may not be the most sophisticated in front of the big group, but in a small group like the lunch we had with him, he’s so much fun. There is such a joy about him. … I have no doubt. Nobody has a crystal ball, but it’s one of those deals I feel so good about.”

The looks on the faces of Padres players said almost as much as their words when discussing aspects of Machado’s play.

It was elation, reverence and a touch of desperation.

A franchise that has never won a championship, has not been to the playoffs since 2006, has lost the second-most games in the major leagues since 2015 and last season lost 96 games, tied for the 10th worst of its 50 seasons, is ready to take on a new persona.

“We could use some edge and start bullying some people around — as we’ve been bullied for a long time,” catcher Austin Hedges said. “… You can feel it when you face teams that have an edge. We haven’t had it, but I think now we just might.”

Machado has been described by almost a dozen of his new teammates in the same manner — as the guy you want on your team every day and that you absolutely cannot stand on the day he’s on the opposing team.

“He’s a Padre now,” Hedges said. “And whatever he ends up doing, if it pisses off the other team, we’ve got his back.”

Motivated by past

What the Padres found out when they dug into what makes Machado tick and what motivates him and what he cherishes is just what they’re offering.

They believe they have the talent to win. They needed him. They wanted him. He would be included in something larger.

When Yainee and Manny found out that Seidler is a big kid and Executive Chairman Ron Fowler is a wise uncle and that they and manager Andy Green talk about family and preach family and have made players’ families feel like part of their families, it meant something.


“Since day one when we met you we knew it was the right fit for me and my wife to be here,” Machado said as he glanced in the direction where Fowler, Seidler and Green were sitting at his introductory news conference on Feb. 22.

Alonso insists he did not insert himself into Machado’s free agency process.

“I didn’t say anything,” Alonso said. “I didn’t even find out he was in contact with the Padres until he signed. I didn’t want to know about it. I didn’t want anything to deviate his situation. I told him my side of being in Chicago, which is great. But I gave them their privacy. It’s not fair for him for me to step in. He knows I wanted him to play with me, but that’s not what happened.”

As Machado, who on Saturday made his spring training debut for the Padres (he went 0-for-1 with a walk), worked to learn more about the organization and the city, descriptions from years back were in the minds of him and his wife.

Suarez — known to everyone as Petey and fondly described by Machado and Alonso as their consigliere (and travel agent/chef/offseason batting practice pitcher) — was around Petco Park a lot while Alonso was with the Padres.

“We haven’t stopped thinking about San Diego,” Suarez said. “We told them we loved this city.”

Of course, it is not unusual for a player to talk about his new team feeling like family, welcoming him like family. And a lot of people would perhaps be compelled to embrace any family paying them $300 million.

But not everyone had a single mom who worked for a wholesale shoe company on weekdays, got home at 6 o’clock and drove her son to the batting cage and worked weekends cleaning toll booths so he could “go out and focus on baseball, go work as hard as I could … work a little harder to try to take her out of that. It motivated me.”

Motivated by winning

The Padres are sensitive about the impression they felt compelled to burrow exceptionally deep into Machado’s life for fear it will look like they thought he was a bad dude.

But, the fact is, they dug exceptionally deep into Machado’s life.

“We do a lot of homework on all our players,” General Manager A.J. Preller said. “… Obviously, when you’re talking about larger-dollar expenditures, you want to be thorough. You want to dig into a guy’s background. You want to understand their perspective and what motivates them.”

And for all the other things Machado values, Preller came to understand from his conversations with him that one thing mattered most.

“He kept talking about winning,” Preller said. “That’s what he kept coming back to in all the conversations — what’s the game plan? What‘s the time period? Who else is going to be there? What’s the system going to be like?”

Anyone paying attention when Machado speaks, even in a setting like a news conference in which he is being introduced to a new team and new fan base, can figure out how much he believes in himself.

“I’m a winner,” he said when asked what kind of player he was. “I’m a gamer.”

And for a guy who was slammed this past postseason for not running out a grounder and an ensuing interview in which he said he was not going to be “Johnny Hustle,” there is an awful lot of evidence that suggests he is, indeed, a “gamer.”

For one, he is one of just 13 major leaguers to have played all 162 games in any of the past four seasons. He is one of three to have done so twice in that span.

Given that he produces — his combined 23.2 WAR (wins above replacement) ranks seventh in the majors over the past four seasons — the Padres were essentially unconcerned from the start about the level to which he hustled.

And the team grew increasingly comfortable with the reality and reasons behind some of the other perceptions about his game.

They heard again and again from people in the organizations for which he played — Baltimore from 2012-18 and the Dodgers for the final two months of last season — that he had matured and was a favored teammate.

When Machado was traded last season, Orioles second baseman Jonathan Schoop said he “broke down and cried.”

On the day news broke about the Machado signing, Dodgers infielder Max Muncy said, “I thought he was a good teammate. He was a good guy to be around. You could tell he likes playing baseball.”

Alonso shook his head and literally scoffed when asked about the publicity Machado’s exploits and comments have gotten.

“I don’t care,” he said. “I know who the guy is. I know his values. I know how he plays the game. Those things get overblown. I know who he is. He’s a ballplayer. He plays hard, he plays clean. I’ve known him forever.”

If you were from South Florida and were part of the region’s baseball community, you started hearing about Machado more than a decade ago, when he was 16.

And if you are from Miami, you have a predilection to understand Machado better than some.

Padres first baseman Eric Hosmer, whose youth team was legendary from coast to coast, said it wouldn’t take but watching “one Little League game” to see players doing whatever it took to win.

The baseball there is largely Hispanic, rich in talent and brimming with brashness.

At lunch the day before Machado officially signed his contract, Seidler was talking with Suarez and Machado about the latter’s style of play.

“That’s the way we grew up playing baseball,” Suarez recalled telling the owner. “Some people call it arrogant. Some people call us cocky, but we are just out there to win. We don’t care who’s in front of us. We’re going to show you we’re better than you. It’s always a chip on your shoulder.”

Asked what he thinks when he sees some of the things Machado does on the field, Suarez said: “What? It’s not just him. There are a bunch of guys who are intense.”

Machado smiles at the mention of his roots. He has smiled a lot lately, and in a conversation in which he was thoughtful and considered his answers, he was never more animated than on the topic of where he played baseball at the start making him the baseball player he is now.

“We grew up with that swag,” said Machado, whose family is from the Dominican Republic. “I think it’s the Latin thing. … People always wanted to beat Miami kids. They always knew we were better than anybody else. When we came into their town, they wanted to beat be us. We always had the chip on our shoulder that we knew we were better than them. We had more swag than them, we were more talented.”


He laughs at the mention his new teammates are ready for some of that.

“I’ve seen it around the room now,” he said. “They’ve brought their swagger a little bit. That’s what San Diego needed.”

A little Miami in San Diego?

“Believe it.”