Jays Journal contributor Tyson Shushkewich got a chance to talk college baseball, joining the Toronto Blue Jays, and the goals for next season with top prospect Alek Manoah.
Hailing from Homestead, Florida, hard throwing pitcher Alek Manoah was selected by the Toronto Blue Jays with their top pick in the 2019 Amateur Draft at 11th overall. The 6’6 right hander had a successful Junior year with the West Virginia Mountaineers, pitching to an incredible 2.08 ERA with 144 strikeouts, 27 walks and a career high 108.1 innings pitched.
“The biggest thing for me was that I trust God and I trust through prayer and seeing the signs that God is sending me, that this (West Virginia University) was the right place to be. When I was going through the recruiting process, it was very overwhelming with schools contacting me and when I came up to visit West Virginia, Coach Mazey and the entire coaching staff run a really family oriented organization. I just wanted to make sure I was in a really safe place and a friendly environment where I can go out and enjoy myself everyday and not feel homesick. That’s something the coaching staff were able to show me on my visit and it ended up working out in the end”.
During the draft, Manoah was excited more than he was nervous, where video shows him and his family and friends all gathered around the television waiting to hear his name being called.
“On draft day, speaking with some of the teams with my agent, we kind of knew I was going to go in the first round but not exactly where. It wasn’t a form of nervousness, but I was excited on where I was going to land and I ended up landing with the Blue Jays. It felt like a perfect fit for me, especially meeting with the front office three weeks prior to that, knowing I was going to be playing for the Blue Jays and representing an entire country was an exciting moment for me and my family.”
He would sign with the Blue Jays on June 13th, and would finish off the year pitching for the Class A Short Season Vancouver Canadiens. His dominant 2019 college campaign wouldn’t stop when he crossed the Canadian border, as he would pitch to a 2.65 ERA in six starts, while also racking up 27 strikeouts, five walks, and 17.0 innings. The workload and innings were kept short, as he was battle tested from a year that saw him pitch a significant amount of innings during the college campaign.
*Playing in front of that crowd, the excitement of the fans and the energy of the ballpark, it just makes you want to be there. You don’t really worry about your body aching, you just go out and it’s such a fun atmosphere, and I think that’s why I was able to preform well. My first season was a great taste and I am excited to get going again in the Spring”.
After the Canadians had wrapped up their season, Manoah would make a trip to Toronto to not only take in the city, but the stadium he hopes to play in sometime in the near future.
“I got a little taste of an exciting atmosphere, the crowd was great. Even when I was on the field during batting practice, some of the fans already knew my name. It obviously shows how much they welcome and love their players, and it got me excited to work my tail off to get to the big leagues as soon as I can”.
With the Winter months and the off-season in full swing, Alek Manoah is taking no time off in order to keep improving and moving forward to reaching his goals.
“Working on my explosiveness and my fast twitch muscles, I’m a big guy and I strive on not playing like a big guy. I like to be athletic and agile, working on my explosiveness, my mobility, my flexibility. I’m starting to pick up a baseball again, so once I get into my long toss days and just throwing the changeup and being able to be feel real confident in that going into camp.”
Early next year, Manoah will be heading to his first spring training assignment with the Toronto Blue Jays, something the right hander is quite excited for.
“We (the prospects) are all super excited and spring training is going to be super exciting because it will be my first time with everybody in the organization. We are a bunch of blue collar guys who are ready to work as hard as we can to no longer be the underdog.”
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When looking in the future and striving towards completing his goals, Manoah was open about his plans moving forward.
“I have the big goals in mind, but I set small goals to help me achieve the bigger ones. My goal for next season is to make every start and be a consistent starter every week. To be able to start every week and give the manager confidence every time I get the ball every five or six days and let everything else work itself out.”
Whether you follow Manoah on social media or not (@Alek_Manoah47), fans can already see the Florida native embracing Canada and everything it has to offer. Whether it be interacting with Blue Jays fans on twitter, telling his fellow teammates to get poutine instead of fries, or cheering on the Toronto Raptors, Manaoh feels the energy from fans across the country.
“God has put me in a place where I get to represent an entire country, so for me, that is an extremely exciting opportunity and blessing in itself.”
Alek Manoah will be starting in the minor leagues next season, and could work his way up the farm system quite quickly if he keeps throwing like he did in 2019. Although he only joined the Toronto Blue Jays organization last year, Manoah is already starting to establish himself as a fan favourite, and a possible key rotation piece in the next few years.