Pittsburgh pursues Manasa’s pitching potential

Alex Manasa proudly represented Farmington High School last June in the annual prep all-star game at Comerica Park in Detroit.

Manasa now has his sights set on someday showcasing his talents in another major league stadium. The 2016 Farmington grad hopes it’s at plush PNC Park in Pittsburgh, whose hometown Pirates selected him in the 11th round of the recent Major League Baseball entry draft.

“Playing at Comerica Park was definitely a neat experience,” Manasa said. “Me and my parents (Melissa and Richard) were talking about it and saying, ‘Wow, last year we’re playing in the high school all-star game at Comerica Park and now it kind of becomes the real thing that we’re playing on pro fields every day.’

“I was in Pittsburgh when I was little, but do not remember it and now everything there is new to me. They took me downtown and it’s a beautiful city,” he added. “I was taking it all in and (PNC Park) is a beautiful place, with the river and the city in the background. It’s a cool stadium in the downtown area and it has a very cool vibe to it.”

Pitching his talent

Manasa, 19, is currently playing for the Bristol Pirates, Pittsburgh’s Virginia-based advanced rookie squad that plays in the 10-team Appalachian League.

The Pirates were attracted to the lanky 6-foot-5 right-hander’s pitching potential even though he wasn’t a full-time hurler at either the high school or college level. The converted outfielder tossed his first game Monday night at DeVault Memorial Stadium in Bristol against the Greenville Astros and allowed a pair of earned runs in two innings of work.

Alex Manasa roamed the Comerica Park dugout as a prep all-star and is working hard to make his way into professional baseball after being drafted recently by the Pittsburgh Pirates. (Photo: Marty Budner)
“(The Pirates) liked my height. They liked my athletic ability and the fact that I am very projectable,” said Manasa, who also played high school basketball. “They are not going to rush me into anything. They want me to take my time and just see where it takes me.

“The see me getting a lot bigger and stronger and seeing my velocity go up. They just want to see me become a better pitcher, since I haven’t been doing this too long. I’ve always been a two-way player, so they just want to see me develop as a pitcher.

“It didn’t surprise me that they wanted me as a pitcher,” he added. “I had a lot of scouts coming out to see me pitch off the mound and they were very interested in my arm.”

Although he’s being groomed as a pitcher, Manasa relishes the thought of playing for the National League-based squad, where he would be allowed to display his offensive skills since there is no designated hitter.

“It’s definitely going to be different not playing in the outfield every day,” he said. “But I’m excited for the opportunity to be a pitcher and I’m focusing on that. It’s another exciting thing that at least I’ll get to bat.”

Manasa, who grew up playing Little League baseball in Farmington and travel ball with the Michigan Bulls, was a high school all-star who twice made all-state and earned first team all-Observer honors.

Called up to varsity midway through his freshman year, the fleet-footed Manasa — who bats left-handed and throws right-handed — quickly became a standout for head coach Pete Finn’s Falcons.

Fleet-footed Alex Manasa was a two-time All-State standout who played four years of varsity baseball at Farmington High School under head coach Pete Finn. (Photo: File photo)
As a junior, Manasa hit .398, clubbed three home runs and scored 39 runs. Farmington’s lead-off batter was named second team Division 1 all-state that year.

In his final varsity season, Manasa hit .391 with five home runs and 28 RBIs. He also scored 56 runs and stole 20 bases en route to Division 1 first team all-state recognition and an East-West all-star appearance.

In the all-star game, which was his first time playing at Comerica Park, Manasa was one of the only players on either roster to go all nine innings. He was the lone East player with two hits and he also had four put-outs in the outfield.

Manasa had committed to play college baseball at Oakland University. However, he never made it to the Rochester-based Division I program and, instead, as fate would have it, wound up at Jackson Community College.

“A couple things changed. I decided to go JUCO, which gave me a few more options,” Manasa said. “It worked out for the better. It was like a blessing in disguise, because I was able to get drafted this year.

“If I would have went to a Division I program, I would have had to wait three years to get drafted, after my junior year,” he added. “So all these other options became available because I went JUCO. It just worked out that way, it wasn’t really in my plans. It worked out for the better.”

Jackson helps pave way

Manasa led Jackson CC with a .410 batting average, including three triples and three home runs. In his first college season, he finished with 55 RBIs and 25 stolen bases.

Manasa also made 16 appearances on the mound with five saves and a 1.27 earned-run average in 21⅓ innings of work. He allowed just three earned runs.

“I enjoyed Jackson a lot. It was a great program and I had a great year there,” Manasa said. “I was able to hit there, too, and had a pretty good year hitting. The coaches were very nice and I loved the team.

“It was a great experience overall and I was glad I went there,” he added. “The coaches there put me in a great position in order for me to get seen by all the scouts and I appreciate them for that.”

After the Jackson CC season concluded, Manasa went to play for the Kenosha Kingfish of the Northwoods League (a summer baseball program for elite college players). It was there in Wisconsin, at his host family’s house, that Manasa learned he was the 13th player and sixth pitcher taken by the Pirates.

“I’m very excited. It was crazy,” Manasa said. “I thought I would have fallen a couple rounds later, but I kind of expected it to be that day. But hearing my name called that early was definitely exciting and I’m still at a loss for words.

“It’s very neat to be playing for the Pirates organization,” he added. “I could imagine getting there, but this whole concept is new to me. I’m just taking it all in right now and it’s a great opportunity.”

It didn’t take him long to say good-bye to Kenosha and hello to Bristol, which is just starting its season.

And it’s safe to say Manasa is looking forward to climbing his way to the major leagues and someday running the bases as a professional like he did at Shiawasse Park as a Little Leaguer, like at Farmington as a prep standout and at Comerica as a high school all-star.

“I just have to continue to work hard, be myself and compete and keep working at my craft,” Manasa said. “This is my job now and I have to work hard to achieve my dreams.

“(Getting drafted) was definitely a dream come true for me. It’s something I’ve been working towards my whole life, since my T-ball days. It’s been the thing I wanted to do and now it’s become a reality and that’s exciting.

“The goal is to be playing in Pittsburgh, hopefully, in a couple of years,” he added. “I’m excited for the opportunity.”

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