Meet the man(nequin) keeping Nats' endless uniform combos straight

Courtesy of the Washington Nationals

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Manny Machado isn't the only Manny donning a new uniform these days.

The other one? That'd be the mannequin stationed inside the Washington Nationals' clubhouse since spring training kicked off. Situated in front of the double doors that lead out to the practice fields, Manny -- as he's known around Nats camp -- has one job and one job only: to save ballplayers from making a fashion faux pas.

And he might be making history in the process.

In the past, the Nationals' dress code du jour was pinned to a bulletin board, posted on a wall across from a fridge full of water bottles. But that was before things got complicated.

This year, Washington's spring training wardrobe, already more varied than most teams', expanded even further to feature three caps, three jerseys and two pairs of pants. In other words, on any given day, there are 18 distinct uniform combinations that could be in play. Clearly, the Nats needed a new sartorial security system.

Enter Manny.

One of the Nationals' clubhouse attendants, inspired by a 2015 image of mannequins modeling the Arizona Diamondbacks' new uniforms, decided a dummy was the smart move. So in the cold of winter, as staffers packed up a tractor-trailer in preparation for the club's annual migration to Florida, they added a mannequin on loan from the team store in Washington.

Although there's no hard data proving a mannequin has never been used by an MLB team for dress-code purposes, the anecdotal evidence suggests Washington is a founding fashion father.

Nats reliever Justin Miller, who played previously for the Rangers, Tigers, Rockies and Angels, says he has never seen one in a clubhouse before. Neither has catcher Yan Gomes (Blue Jays, Indians). Ditto for hurlers Anibal Sanchez (Marlins, Braves), Sean Doolittle (A's) and Trevor Rosenthal (Cardinals), as well as outfielder Adam Eaton (White Sox). Starter Jeremy Hellickson says that when he was in Tampa, manager Joe Maddon did have a mannequin in the locker room, but not for business purposes.

"Just because we're professional athletes doesn't mean we don't need somebody to tell us what to wear to work every day."
Sean Doolittle

"It wasn't for uniforms," says Hellickson, who has also pitched for the Phillies, D-backs and Orioles. "Joe would just dress it up sometimes."

If you're scoring at home, that's 15 franchises that, according to the Washington Nationals' merry band of oral historians, have combined to go 0-for-mannequins. That's half the entire league, which, for statistical purposes, if you believe in liberally rounding up to support flimsy folkloric evidence, is basically all of the league.

Pitcher Collin McHugh, whose Astros share their spring training complex with the Nats, says Houston does use half a mannequin during the regular season. But a half is not a whole (unless, of course, you're rounding). Either way, one thing is for sure: Manny has been a huge hit so far in West Palm Beach.

"It's extremely helpful," Gomes says of the ivory-white figure, which stands 6-foot-2 and weighs in at a svelte 45 pounds. "In Cleveland and Toronto, we didn't switch uniforms every other day. We just used gray pants and whatever shirt you wanted. So you didn't really have to worry about it."

Despite their many uni possibilities, Nats players don't have to worry now, either.

"I come in here early. I turned the corner to go to the bathroom and I was like, 'What the f---?'"
Ryan Zimmerman

"I don't have to guess what the uniform is," says Rosenthal, who recalls the Cardinals having a grand total of two possible combos in spring training (one jersey, two pants), or 16 fewer than the Nationals have. "It's amazing."

It's especially beneficial for clothing clods like Sanchez, who admits he has a history of wearing the wrong spring training outfit. "This is better," says the veteran starter. "Just gotta pay attention to the mannequin." Adds Doolittle: "Just because we're professional athletes doesn't mean we don't need somebody to tell us what to wear to work every day."

The only people who might have issues with the mannequin are the folks responsible for getting him in uniform, every single day at the crack of dawn. Although, if you ask around the Nats' complex, it's difficult to discern exactly who that is. Says one insider: "Manny dresses himself."

As for what time Manny gets his garb on, according to Ryan Zimmerman, it's somewhere around 0-dark-thirty.

"I come in here early," says the longtime Nats first baseman, who's not unaccustomed to entering the locker room when it's pitch black, before the motion-sensor lights have been activated. The first couple of times Zimmerman came in, he admits he was spooked. "I turned the corner to go to the bathroom, and I was like, 'What the f---?'"

Eventually, he realized, it was just Manny being Manny.