Orioles flock to support teammate Manny Machado's benefit bowling tournament

Orioles third baseman Manny Machado's second charity bowling tournament brought 15 of his current teammates out on a rare off day – and even one popular former one – to help raise money for a program geared toward spreading baseball to disadvantaged youth around Baltimore City.

"It's awesome," Machado said. "We're family. We're all a part of a family. Off the field we try to help each other out and help out the community. We try to pick it up as a bonding event."


The gathering of Orioles at the Manny Machado BaseBowl Tournament held Monday at Mustang Alley's included manager Buck Showalter, center fielder Adam Jones, shortstop J.J. Hardy, first baseman Chris Davis, right-hander Chris Tillman, closer Zach Britton, as well as vice president of baseball operations Brady Anderson and Orioles Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr.

Even former Orioles slugger Nelson Cruz, who was in Baltimore on an off day before his new team, the Seattle Mariners, opens a three-game series at Camden Yards, attended the event to support Machado. Cruz was a clubhouse and fan favorite in his only season in Baltimore last season, and his former teammates got a kick out of seeing him.


"We're friends and I called him actually," Cruz said. "I knew he was going to have the event [and asked] if he needed me. I just want to meet him and be part of this. … It's always nice to see my teammates, you know, to see the fans and be able to see them and say hi."

The sold-out event was expected to surpass the $80,000 raised during last year's inaugural event. Proceeds from the event go to the Baltimore City Recreation and Parks' Play Baseball program, a summer program for children 12 and under in which participants are provided with uniforms, equipment and transportation at no costs.

The Orioles organization also donated $10,000 to the cause.

Machado said last year's benefit helped the league increase from 14 to 24 teams.

"Hopefully we triple that this year," Machado said.

The program, which will begin its third season this summer reached more than 350 kids throughout the city and renovated an old baseball diamond at the Robert C. Marshall Recreation Center in West Baltimore. Plans for this summer include renovating two more rec center fields.

Machado said the cause hit home for him because he said he grew up in Miami struggling to have equipment or transportation to play baseball.

"It was mostly thinking back like to when I played," Machado said of what piqued his interest. "Never had equipment growing up or transportation. It was a good cause to help out kids to get back out there and play some baseball and get back into it. … It was always tough to get transportation to go to places with my mom working and my family situation.

"It's just great to finally give back and help the kids who need the help," Machado said. "Baseball has been dying down [in popularity] a little bit, so it's kind of trying to encouraging people to get out there and play more baseball. Play more sports and be active outside and not be at home playing video games. Go out there, give them balls, give them gloves, give them cleats and uniforms and have them enjoy themselves."

Orioles right-hander Brach Brach said he was also a product of his local parks and recreation league growing up in New Jersey and was the beneficiary of the generosity of others.

"I don't even think twice about it," Brach said. "When he told me the time and the date, it was ready to be here for him. … If you don't have donations that can help out with getting equipment, just getting the kids out and having fun and playing sports [is difficult]. I know that if I didn't have that, I probably wouldn't be here today too so it's definitely an important cause."

Jones has immersed himself in the community. His philanthropy has renovated two Baltimore City Boys and Girls clubs the past two years, has said he's committed to four more projects for each of the four years remaining on his contract.


"I didn't know Machado was that popular," Jones deadpanned. "I like what he's doing, implementing himself into the community. … It makes sense. He doesn't come from the greatest things, so he understands what giving back is."

The support Machado received from his teammates is unique. Asked whether the he's seen this kind of clubhouse support in his other big league stops, Showalter said, "I like where we are with it. I'm not going to compare it with other places. A lot of places do good work, but I'd put us against anybody.

"They're just doing it because it's right and they enjoy to do it and there's a pureness of heart to it," Showalter added. "They'll be the first to tell you, this game, this city has been good to them too. You're never going to be able to even the playing field with that, but you try to do everything you can and still try to keep in mind what you're here for. If you can impact something else along the way, you should do it."


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