When we think of a versatile baseball player, it usually has to do with the ability to field multiple positions on defense. For Sean Manaea, it means being able to pitch in the starting rotation and pinch-cheer for the fans if necessary.
The general public isn’t allowed to attend MLB games in 2020, due to social distancing guidelines during the coronavirus pandemic. That’s led to stadiums full of inanimate cardboard cutouts in the seats, and virtual crowd noise broadcast over the speakers to break the silence. Players have already reported how weird it is having no people in the stands to pump them up.
On Monday in Seattle, Manaea took matters into his own hands. The Oakland A’s lefty sat in the first row above the club’s dugout with a stack of handmade signs, each bearing a nickname for one of his teammates or some other motivational slogan. The signs were wonderfully authentic, and looked exactly like what you’d expect any fan to bring from home in a normal season.
The Manaealator first showed up on camera in the 6th inning, after the A’s had more or less ended the game with their eight-run rally in the 5th. Up to bat was Mark Canha, one of the team’s hottest hitters so far this year, and Manaea held a sign that read “Canhanball” (a play on “cannonball”).
Next up was Matt Chapman, and this might have yielded Manaea’s best work of the evening. He had two separate pages, one that read CHAP and the other MAN, but he held them up backward so that they said MAN CHAP.
Did he mean to say Chap Man but held them the wrong way? Was it always meant to be Man Chap? Were they separate pages so he had the option of going either way with it? The answers to these questions don’t matter at all, because either way Chapman shall henceforth be known as Man Chap forever.
After Chapman came Matt Olson, who already has a perfectly fine nickname in Oly just as Chapman is already Chaptain America. But Olson got a new one from Manaea too in Big O, plus perhaps the prettiest of all the signs.
Chapman and Olson are two of the core stars and leaders of this A’s team, but they’re joined in that regard by fellow homegrown hitter Chad Pinder. The super-sub isn’t up to the Matts’ lofty level on the field, but he’s considered a key presence in the clubhouse.
Pinder is already known as Chi, and he’s used that as his nickname in all three years of the annual Players’ Weekend promotion. Manaea stuck with that, but with some extra i’s at the end for dramatic purposes.
Later on we got a glimpse during a Sean Murphy at-bat, and Manaea kept it simple for the rookie: Murph.
Manaea didn’t always go for the individual tributes. At various times he stuck with a general team message: Lets Goo. I may have suggested either adding or subtracting an O from the word Go, because “Let’s Goo” sounds like a cheer that would have been used if Disney had ever rebranded the Angels as the Tomorrowland Flubber.
See if you can spot Manaea in the crowd! He’s the one with a third dimension.
As the game went on, Manaea got a teammate involved. I can’t tell under the mask, but I think it might be Daniel Mengden? (This specific angle looks a bit like Chris Bassitt.)
There was also a sign for El Burro, but I didn’t notice it on the A’s broadcast so it’s unclear who it was for. The smart bet would probably be Franklin Barreto, who did pinch-hit but only had a couple quick at-bats — perhaps not long enough for the camera to spend time panning to Manaea? It could also possibly be starting pitcher Frankie Montas, since a burro could be a reference to the strength and durability of the A’s ace (who went seven innings in this winning effort with just one run allowed).
Dave Stewart said the following on the NBCS post-game show:
“Sean Manaea is a prankster, man. I’ve had an opportunity to be around him on a few occasions, not as much as I would like to be. He is outstandingly funny, man. He is a great teammate.”
This has been a tough year for everyone and we could all use a few extra smiles wherever we can find them. Thanks to Sean Manaea for giving us just that, especially during a game that had otherwise entered garbage time. Baseball was as fun as ever Monday night, and hopefully this wasn’t the last we’ll see of Manaea’s cheer signs!
P.S. If this doesn’t finally get Manaea some love in our year-end awards vote for Team Captain, then I don’t know what will.