MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — You talk of emotional elevators, well, take a ride with West Virginia’s 6-foot-6, 260-pound right-hander Alek Manoah, who went from the depths of hell to the heights of heaven in 24 hours.
Just a day after his heart — and that of an entire state — was broken by one of the most improbable NCAA Tournament losses in history when Texas A&M eliminated his Mountaineers by overcoming a 9-1 deficit in the seventh and won on a walk-off grand slam on a 3-2 pitch with two out.
Manoah is looking at a contract that figures to pay him $4.5 million, which will ease the pain some.
A mountain of man, who stands 6-6 and weighs a listed 260 pounds but has admitted to being more like 285, Manoah made a huge jump between his last season and this to become one of college baseball’s National Pitcher of the Year candidates.
Manoah throws 96 miles an hour but makes extremely good use of both a slider that he picked up last summer in the Cape Cod League and a change up.
Although he lost his last college start, 4-1, to Duke in the Morgantown Regional, he finishes his final year with a 9-4 record, 2.08 ERA and a school record 108.1 innings pitched.
He is the second West Virginia player to be selected 11th in the major league draft. Chris Enochs was also the 11th player picked when the Oakland Athletics took him 22 years ago. He spent nine years in the minor leagues with Oakland, Houston and the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Like Manoah, Enochs also benefitted greatly from pitching in the Cape Cod league between seasons.
But unlike Enochs, Manoah played a huge role in changing West Virginia’s place in college baseball and recognizes what he and the team have done.
“We already have changed the face of WVU baseball,” he said shortly after the selection. “Last year we had a second-round pick and now the program has a top 15 pick.”
That second-round pick was Michael Grove, who missed nearly the entire season due to arm surgery but was impressive enough to go that high.
In a way, coach Randy Mazey had to share the evening with Manoah, for he is the man who handles the pitchers.
“He’s meant the world to me,” Manoah said. “He’s been there for me through everything. He’s helped with my maturity and development. He helped with my mindset.
“He’s prepared me for the big moments and been there to guide me along the way. This wouldn’t have been possible without him.”
Mazey, however, downplayed his role.
“When you get a person like him you don’t have to coach him much. His pride and competitiveness drive him more than anything you can do. I just had to make sure he kept his direction on and off the field,” he said.
Manoah came out of Miami undrafted but could have signed for $347,000. Instead, he opted to take the route through college ball.
His older brother, Erik, had signed directly out of high school after being drafted in the 13th round by the New York Mets and continues to play in the minor leagues.
“In the minor leagues, when guys go at the wrong time, it doesn’t work out for them, because they’re pressured and they’re pushed to make it to the next level,” Alek Manoah said in a recent Metro News article. “In college, I had a chance to develop more mentally and physically and go through trial-and-error.”
There were many trials and many errors along the way, struggling through his sophomore season before going to the Cape Cod League and working himself into shape.
Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel.