Toronto Blue Jays pitching prospect (#4 system prospect according to MLB.com) was selected 11th overall out of West Virginia. Out of the 100 or so interviews I heard, Manoah’s was one of the top five. Here it is in full context.
Why do you think the MLB Draft is so unpredictable in terms of who makes it to the big leagues and who doesn’t?
It’s a hard system to go through the minor leagues and to make it to the top and at the same time most of the guys that are being scouted you probably see them at their best for the most part. Most high school guys don’t go through much adversity. Once you get to the minor leagues there is a bunch of adversity. Most of the kids drafted high haven’t been through those many different obstacles and it can really hurt them mentally. I think that’s where guys don’t make it to the big leagues.
Talk about a time in your life when you dealt with adversity.
Definitely I would say just my out of life, not out of life but baseball life hasn’t always been the easiest. I have gone through a lot within my family. I was pretty overweight and got overlooked, didn’t get my scholarship until my senior year from Cincinnati. I just constantly believed in myself, didn’t let the adversity kick me in the butt. I kept working hard with a bright future in front of me, lost some weight, got in front of the right people and got offers from basically everyone. Just kept trusting the process, even when I got to school I never met expectations until this year. I was probably the highest recruit, and was just a bullpen guy. That can hurt your mind as well but the more I just don’t get result oriented and think about getting better every day helps me make jumps in the long-run.
What gets you excited when you play the game of baseball?
Just how much I love the game, I would say that’s what it is for me. On top of that like we talked about earlier, I don’t come from a family with too much. I am more of just a blue-collar hard worker. When I am out there I just take everything personal, not that I deserve to be the best or deserve anything; just proving who I am and what I’m capable of doing. Just trying to represent my family in the best way and my neighborhood in the best way. Just playing as hard as I can that’s my motivation. Not many people where I came from had the chance to play D1. That’s a big thing for me just playing hard and the right way. I love just playing the game and never want to take that for granted.
What gets him upset: I’m just always fired up man, there’s times I get upset at myself or catch myself taking the game for granted and lose some focus. Besides that I am just having a blast and competing.
What does it take for a team to win a championship?
Good leadership I would say. I think good leaders in the clubhouse, and off the field. Guys that can keep everyone together. It’s a long season and there’s times where guys want to get complacent. A leader won’t let that sink in to a locker room. It takes a leader to mesh everyone together. The team that plays together as a family has maybe 2-3 main leaders that keep everyone on the same page. By being able to do that with talent it’s hard to beat.
What is the difference between you and a MLB player right now?
He’s got more big league experience than I do. I think I’m very confident, I can pitch in the big leagues right now. I have good enough stuff, I compete just as hard if not harder than some of those guys that have been in the league longer. I have never really doubted myself. I got really good stuff and a really good heart. Competitive spirit with some trial and error, I’ll get a hang of how to pitch to some of these guys with scouting reports I’ll be able to hang in there. Biggest separator is they know how to pitch to big league hitters and how to it every five days.
Finish the sentence for me: Alex is a great player, but?
Alex is a great player but, uh. I don’t know, I’ve been told probably I’m too competitive at times. I can let it get to myself kind of when I have a bad outing or bad pitch I can let it snowball effect. That’s something I have worked on extremely hard. In the past I let it snowball and didn’t have good seasons or reach my full potential. It’s always gonna be working on it, I take a lot of pride in what I do. Failing isn’t easy for me. Never get too high on success or too low on adversity.
How will you know when you’ve made it?
When I retire. I think it won’t hit me until I finish playing and my jersey gets hung up and retired. I don’t think it will ever hit me.
Take me through your routine.
I have a good routine that helps me stay together and win. I came up with it honestly, I am really studious towards the game. I analyze big league pitchers, read reports on what they say in certain situations. I have had my share of pitching coaches and summer coaches in three years at West Virginia, I had three of each. I have failed and done good; I’ve had great talks with Dennis Cook in the Cape. He pitched 15 years in the big leagues. Just putting my routine together was basically based on this is what worked for me this time around, process of elimination and finally has found something that has put me all together and in the right state of mind. Ready to win every Friday night.
How do great players improve the players around them?
By doing the right things. I would say I can make other players better by showing up to the ballpark every day and realizing how hard I work. How much passion I have toward the game, and that’s the first step in making others great. If I am doing everything right that one consistent thing is my passion, even in failure. When I do that and talk to another pitcher that is struggling it adds credibility behind everything I say. They know how hard I work, they know my up and down’s and know I am still here. Being able to make others better is a positive re-assurance. You can tell me I’m not going to do something and it motivates me. If you scream at me I will throw you to the side and not listen to a word you say. The main thing is really learning the players around you and how to motivate them, everyone has their different cues. Do all the right things and it really makes you help people around you.
What is the toughest adjustment you see yourself needing to make in Pro Baseball?
Going seven days to five days. I think everything else plays at the next level, my mindset included. I can go through and know I will go through more adversity. I have a brother in the minors so I know what to expect. I am ready for anything coming my way. I have thrown outside the rotation I think once. I threw seven innings in a midweek game against Maryland and then started against TCU on the weekend. Being able to do that for an entire year has to do with adjusting my routine once again and getting my body used to it.
What is an example of an adjustment you have had to make?
I have had to make conditioning and mental adjustments. Adjustments to my delivery. Throwing more strikes, compete harder, help my team win. Just to stay on a path that I am taking things one day at a time not thinking one game can make or break my entire career or season. Putting so much on one game can really hurt you if you don’t do good. It steamrolls an entire week of work. You analyze it real quick, what you did right and wrong and set a plan to fix it for the next week so you repeat the good things again you know?
What advice would you give to a freshman wanting to follow in your footsteps and play professional baseball?
I have given a few of our guys advice. It’s a long road, and where you will be in three years is a testament to your work ethic and how much you trust it. To the one day at a time, we have a freshman right now who was one of our biggest recruits but hasn’t played much this year. He got one midweek start and didn’t do too well. He has 93 or 96 one day and then the next not good. The inconsistency is why he doesn’t pitch more. I compare myself to him and tell him, you might not want to believe this but I was throwing in games up 8-0 at Nichols State. That’s the kind of guy I was, so remember that. I trusted it and got better every week and you can too. All it takes is a shot, and to have that mentality. Keep trying to build off myself in the rotation.
If we draft you and we’re able to sign you, what can you guarantee us?
I’m gonna guarantee you the same passion, and heart I play with. I’m gonna bring that every day and guarantee you a guy who brings love and positive energy into a clubhouse. Guys will want to play with me, I’ll tell you that 100%. Guys will get better because they will play with me. I won’t guarantee championships, it’s a team game but no one man can just win a championship, but if we put the right pieces together we can get better as a group and have a lot of success.