Doorstep of the dream: WVU’s Alek Manoah aims at career with Blue Jays

Alek Manoah is all smiles during WVU's game against Texas Tech on Thursday, May 23, 2019.  (Photo Credit: Jeff Ruff, BGS)

Alek Manoah is all smiles during WVU’s game against Texas Tech on Thursday, May 23, 2019.
(Photo Credit: Jeff Ruff, BGS)

MORGANTOWN, W.Va.–When West Virginia’s Alek Manoah was selected with the 11th overall pick in the MLB Draft on Monday night by the Toronto Blue Jays it was a dream come true.

However, that dream wasn’t always envisioned with Manoah on the mound. In fact, he wanted to be on the opposite end, behind the plate.

“My dream has actually always been to be a major league catcher,” he said. “That’s what I played growing up and throughout high school. Once we noticed the strong arm and the size and the ability, we started to see my ability as a pitcher and my dream to be a pitcher in the big leagues started my senior year of high school. Now that dream hasn’t come true yet. My dream was not to get drafted. My dream is to pitch in the big leagues so this is one goal that I’ve reached. I’m extremely excited to go set more goals and to accomplish those goals.”

Now, the right-hander is on the verge of living those dreams and he couldn’t be any happier to be a part of the Toronto organization.

“It feels amazing,” he said. “I think this is a perfect fit for me. When I met with the front office about two or three weeks ago, I left that meeting and I was feeling extremely good about playing for them. I was just glad that I was able to get to 11. There was a lot of talk about me going eight, nine, 10 but I’m just glad I was able to fall to 11. I think they’re a good fit for me. Their organization really believes in a lot of things that I believe in. I know Bo Bichette. I played with him before. He was their second round pick a three years ago. I know Chris Beck. He was their fifth round pick last year. So I have some ties in there as well. I’m just extremely excited to get down there and start getting to work.”

Alek Manoah prepares to deliver a pitch during WVU's Big 12 Championship against Texas Tech on Thursday, May 23, 2019. (Photo Credit: Jeff Ruff, BGS)

Alek Manoah prepares to deliver a pitch during WVU’s Big 12 Championship against Texas Tech on Thursday, May 23, 2019.
(Photo Credit: Jeff Ruff, BGS)

Obviously, Manoah has a lot of intriguing qualities that would make any team want him from his work ethic to his leadership. Not to mention the impressive list of accolades the 6-foot-6, 260-pound pitcher has racked up during his tenure with the Mountaineers.

He finished the 2019 campaign with a 2.08 ERA and 144 strikeouts, which is WVU’s single-season record for strikeouts. John Radosevich had held this honor since 1964 when he fanned 123 batters.

Manoah was named the Big 12 Pitcher of the Year and to the All-Big 12 First Team. He was WVU’s second Pitcher of the Year recipient (LHP Harrison Musgrave, 2013).

Currently, the junior is a finalist for the College Baseball Foundation National Pitcher of the Year and a semifinalist for the Dick Howser Trophy and the Golden Spikes Award. He was the first player to ever earn the Golden Spikes Award/D1Baseball.com Performance of the Week award three consecutive weeks.

Manoah is ranked No. 5 nationally in strikeouts (144), No. 12 in starts (16), No. 13 in WHIP (0.90), No. 22 in hits allowed per nine innings (5.90), No. 28 in wins (9), No. 28 in ERA (2.08), No. 29 in strikeouts per nine innings, No. 36 in strikeout-to-walk ratio (5.33) and No. 37 in complete games (2). His two complete games came in back-to-back weeks against Texas Tech and Kansas, where he mowed down 15 batters. That was a feat that no other Mountaineer had accomplished and the no other Big 12 player has done so since 2003.

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Alek Manoah cheers on teammates during the Big 12 Championship. (Photo Credit: Jeff Ruff, BGS)

There isn’t much the Blue Jays wouldn’t like but it’s Manoah’s size and energy that made him stand out.

“They loved my size,” he said. “They loved my competitiveness. They love who I am as a man off the field. And they’re just extremely excited to get me going. Their general manager grew up in Miami as well, so there are some ties there. I think it’s a perfect fit with me and that organization.”

On Monday night, WVU head baseball coach Randy Mazey and his family hosted a draft watch party for Manoah, his teammates, coaches and family.

When the big man’s name was called, it was a moment Mazey will never forget.

“This is one of the happiest days of my coaching career,” he said.

Whether it was Toronto or one of the 31 other MLB teams, Mazey knew they would get a gem.

“I don’t have any doubts that he would be a great fit no matter who would have drafted him,” he said. “I think he is going to be a quality starter in the big leagues in a short period of time and who doesn’t want that. He can go out and throw 120-125 pitches and be better at the end than he is at the beginning. That’s a rare quality in a pitcher to be better at pitch 120 than pitch No. 1.”

The relationship between Mazey and Manoah is an amazing one and the Miami, Fla. native doesn’t know where he would be without his coach.

“He’s meant the world to me,” Manoah said. “He’s been there for me through everything. Not just on the field but off the field. He’s helped me with my maturity development. He’s helped me with my mindset. He’s helped me with the way I look at life. I think using those experiences, using those parts in my life and it’s really helped me on the field and off the field. He’s put me in big moments. He’s knows I failed a few times and I’ve competed. He’s been there to guide me along the way. I’m extremely grateful for him. This obviously wouldn’t be possible without him being there for me off and on the field.”

And Mazey knew Manoah was special the first time he laid eyes on him.

Alek Manoah delivers a pitch against Duke on Saturday, June 1, 2019. (Photo Credit: Shanna Rose, BGS)

Alek Manoah delivers a pitch against Duke on Saturday, June 1, 2019.
(Photo Credit: Shanna Rose, BGS)

“The competitiveness, the talent, you could tell what a great teammate he was,” Mazey said. “Regardless of what team we saw him on, we saw him on several different teams but to be able to be a great teammate on different teams. You’re just meeting guys; you don’t have a background with guys, shows what a special person he is. Baseball players can develop but he’s developed not only as a player but a person as well. Just to see the reaction of the players. We had a get together tonight for all his teammates, coaches and family were here. To see how happy all his teammates were for him says a lot about him says a lot about the type of person he is.”

And what the South Dade Senior High School graduate has done for the Mountaineer baseball program is tremendous. When Manoah made his final appearance at the Mon on Sunday afternoon, he left behind a legacy no one will likely touch or at least for a long time.

“He’ll go down as perhaps as the greatest pitcher to ever pitch at West Virginia,” Mazey said. “I think we had one other guys, Chris Enochs that was the 11th pick overall and AK was the 11th pick. He helped change the face of Mountaineer baseball forever. He led us to a regional host this year. He was great in the community. He was our emotional leader. He captured the community, state and the fan base. He will be remembered for a long, long time for what he’s done for our baseball program.  He will be remembered by me for a long time for the type of person he is.”

Despite losing Manoah the future is bright for the WVU baseball program but he helped put the Mountaineers on the map.

It was his faith in God that led him to the Mountain State and it’s his faith that knows this isn’t the end of the road for him.

“God has guided me to West Virginia,” Manoah said. “God has guided me to prevail through my adversity. He has guided me to stay consistent in my success and I knew he would work everything out. It’s out of my control and in his hands.”

 

Cover Photo Credit: Jeff Ruff, BGS

 

 

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