Sparking up buzz around your team's prospects is a normal, healthy activity. It's hard not to -- these are guys who have yet to really prove what they can do in the majors, they're a mystery, a hope, an untapped potential waiting to blossom. Fever comes and goes with these players, but every once in a great while you stumble upon one that just seems right. Someone that you feel is supposed to be a part of your team.
Sean Manaea is that for the A's. With a boisterous smile and a wild head of curly hair, he already looks the part. And after proving himself in Spring Training and the minors, all we could do was sit back and wait for that magical time in summer when he would manifest through the cornfield and onto the pitcher's mound under the Coliseum lights.
But, wait! It's spring. It's not even a month into the season! And Manaea has been called up!
Last Friday, he made his big league debut, striking out three and giving up four runs in five innings. Not a bad start at all, but luckily the A's offense came to life and pulled out a miraculous win in the form of a Yonder Alonso walk-off-three-run homer to give Oakland a 7-4 win over the Astros. Manaea, however, did not get the win. Tonight is his chance to grab that first W of his career, in Boston, against the Red Sox.
The 6'5", 245lb lefty was born to Faaloloi and Opal Manaea in Wanatah, Indiana, a small city of less than 1000 people. Less than 1000 people, only one street light (as our Nico wrote about in a fantastic AN Exclusive about Manaea), and they managed to produce an MLB-calibre pitcher with a fastball so dazzling it has been classified as "unhittable" when Manaea's stuff is in its highest form.
And to make Manaea stand out even more in his small town, he's of Samoan descent. Not the most common heritage in the heart of the American Midwest, but that doesn't stop Manaea and his family from holding tight to their roots. Manaea has a tattoo on his arm, an intricate interweaving of Samoan symbols that covers his shoulder down to his elbow.
In the summer of 2012, before his junior year at Indiana State, Manaea pitched for the Hyannis Harbor Hawks of the Cape Cod League. Though, to simply say he pitched for the Harbor Hawks would be insulting. In 51.1 innings, Manaea pulverized his opponents, amassing a 1.22 ERA with 85 K's and only seven walks. Seven.
When in college and the minors, Manaea said he taught himself to stop performing for scouts, instead to just pitch and improve for himself and his team.
Still only 24 years old, Manaea was acquired by the A's in the Ben Zobrist trade with the Royals last year. He's remained humble and giddy as a puppy, even with his clear success and sparkling promise of an MLB start -- which finally came to fruition last month. When he speaks, you almost forget the calibre of pitcher behind the goofy grin and the nonchalant way he's able to laugh off his mistakes.
So, finally, the A's have built an opening for Manaea to show what he can do at the major league level. As someone who has proven his skill at finding where he, himself, needs to improve, Manaea already got a great taste of A's brand baseball in his first two starts. We can only sit back and watch him blossom from here on out.