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Sports Talk: This Machado hits 500 and keeps on going

The name is Machado, the game is baseball so by any chance …

“I tell people all the time he’s my cousin,” Justin Machado, La Costa Canyon High’s baseball coach, said with a wink.

Manny Machado is the Padres slugger with the staggering $300 million contract.

Still LCC’s Machado recently hitting the 500 mark is equally as impressive.

Justin Machado recently won his 500th game as baseball coach at La Costa Canyon High. Courtesy photo

That’s wins at LCC, not dollars, and that’s fine.

“Where else would I have it better than out here on this field,” Machado said.

Machado, LCC’s lone coach in its 23 seasons, has it pointed toward the CIF San Diego Section playoffs, which start next week.

LCC has won three CIF titles and no telling if No. 4 is on the horizon. What’s clear as the pristine infield Machado religiously manicures is he’s doing something right.

While rivals swear at drawing LCC in the postseason, Machado’s players and coaches swear by him.

“He’s the most fun coach I’ve ever played for,” said Spencer Jones, the Mavericks’ standout two-way player. “It’s always a low-stress environment and he lets the players play.”

Joey Burke, an assistance coach and former Maverick, agreed.

“He’s got a ton of patience and he’s out there having fun,” he said.

Once the LCC diamond was a patch of brown grass lacking an outfield fence with convertible dugouts — no tops. But the gem was Machado, a baseball-lifer possessing a dream and a fungo.

Baseball stirred his passion after playing at San Dieguito, MiraCosta College and Sonoma State.

At MiraCosta he learned under the hard-nosed John Seeley.

“He was a disciplinarian,” Machado said. “You had to run three miles in 21 minutes and do six 40-yard sprints before he gave you your uniform.”

At Sonoma State John Goelz was in charge.

“He was more relaxed,” Machado said. “I think I took more after him.”

It was there Machado, 48, embraced the idea of coaching. He directed San Dieguito’s JV team after college and then applied for the LCC job.

“I got it and a year later I became a teacher, too,” he said.

Making baseball a joy is easy. Economics?

“He makes it a fun class,” Jones said. “Even first thing in the morning he has that energy and is just someone who’s easy to talk to.”

Machado eventually talked his father, Jim, into constructing dugout roofs. Others contributed blood, sweat, tears and funds to transform the field with a 1,000 bad hops into one with seldom a blade out of place.

“It’s incredible how he loves working on the field,” Burke said. “He wants it just right for the parents, players, fans and for them to see how nice of a place this is.”

It’s advanced countless players into the college and pro ranks. Mickey Moniak was the 2016 draft’s No. 1 overall pick by the Phillies.

Machado never gets his fill of baseball, but he recognizes its harsh realities. It’s a game constructed around failure. Slumps invariably arrive.

“He has a way that when players get frustrated he calms them down,” Burke said. “He reminds them of the good things they’ve done and to forget about the bad things.”

The ying-and-yang of coaching teenagers hits home for Machado as his son, Austin, is among LCC’s top players. It’s yet another chapter in a coaching tome that is still being written.

“I’m having a fun,” he said. “I wouldn’t quit unless I got bored.”

Speaking of boards, there’s yet another Machado. Rob Machado, Justin’s brother, is an iconic surfer living around the corner from his sibling in Cardiff.

Rob hears plenty about Justin, who’s been named the California Coaches Association’s baseball coach of the year. Justin encourages his crew to give Rob the needle.

“I tell them to say, ‘Hey, I know your brother,”’ Justin said.

It’s the one that knows baseball and it’s true it hasn’t provided Justin with a $300 million deal. But he’s wealthy in other ways, some that are not so easily quantified in his economics class.