Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop were longtime friends with the Orioles who took divergent paths this summer only to meet again. They had dinner plans at a downtown Milwaukee steakhouse on Thursday night before their new teams, the Dodgers and Brewers, meet in the National League Championship Series.
Of course that was the matchup. Of course Machado and Schoop meet again.
When the Orioles traded Machado to the Dodgers, his first game was in Milwaukee against the Brewers. When Baltimore traded Schoop to the Brewers two weeks later, his first game was in Los Angeles against the Dodgers. Now they'll be on the same field again for Game 1 tonight.
"Something special is going to happen," Schoop said. "Me and him, same team and then playing against each other. For me and him, it's beyond friends."
"Relationships always go farther than sports," said Machado.
Schoop broke down and cried when Machado called on July 18 to say he'd been traded to the Dodgers. The two met in the instructional league in the fall of 2010, a year after Baltimore signed Schoop out of Curacao and a few months after Machado was drafted third overall. Both were shortstops, but Schoop moved to third base to accommodate Machado. It was the first of a series of position switches for both players.
They remained teammates in Class A ball in 2011 and Double-A in '12 before Machado moved up to the Major Leagues. Schoop joined him late in '13, and beginning in '14, they were fixtures in the Orioles infield while growing as close as brothers off the field. They played chess and video games. FIFA is still their favorite, Schoop said.
Machado was the brighter star, making four All-Star teams with Baltimore. But Schoop was solid in his own right, hitting a career-high 32 home runs with 105 RBIs and earning his own All-Star appearance in 2017.
"Me and him, it's like brothers now," Schoop said. "Friends forever. Baseball makes you more than teammates."
But baseball also split the brothers apart.
Machado made an early impact with the Dodgers, reaching safely four times in his debut in the first game after the All-Star break, a win over the Brewers at Miller Park. But Schoop slumped. He slashed .202/.246/.331 in 134 Brewers plate appearances, though there was a big moment against the Giants on Sept. 9, when he hit a go-ahead grand slam off Madison Bumgarner to send the Brewers to a three-game series sweep.
Schoop's at-bats diminished down the stretch, though the Dodgers' lefty-heavy starting rotation -- three of their four announced starters, beginning with Clayton Kershaw in Game 1, are southpaws -- means Schoop could play a more prominent role.
Early on during Schoop's struggles, Machado sent supportive texts: "You know you're good. You know you can do it because you did it already, so don't press. Go out there and have fun. You have a really good team, so compete. You're at your best when you just have fun out there."
Most of their texts are more playful. When Milwaukee's visit to Dodger Stadium coincided with Schoop's July 31 trade to the Brewers, the very first text was from Machado.
"He told me, 'I'm going to see you again. I'm going to play against you, and I'm going to beat you,'" Schoop said.
A lot of their back-and-forth goes like that.
"I mean, we go way back," Machado said. "I've known him for eight years. We came up together, we started playing together. We've done everything together for eight years in an organization. We grew our relationship. He's one of my best friends. It's just relationships that you build on through the years."
Adam McCalvy MLB.com