PITTSBURGH — For as long as Mountaineer fans have known him, Alek Manoah has always been larger than life.
The 6’6”, 260-pound pitcher who shattered records at WVU still possesses that same towering demeanor, wicked repertoire of pitches and persona that ought to scare opposing hitters. He still occasionally barks at batters after striking them out, and he never backs down from a challenge.
Yet after guiding the Blue Jays to a 4-0 victory over the Pirates in his first big league start at PNC Park, the nearest MLB ballpark to his former stomping grounds at WVU, this big-time MLB All-Star and ferocious competitor showed off another side of his personality.
The native of Homestead, Florida, who is also a gentle giant, returned to the field after the final out. He greeted and celebrated with dozens of fans, friends and former teammates and coaches who made the trip to the ballpark to support him.
“A lot of people were rooting for me that I just wanted to make proud,” Manoah said after the game. “It was pretty awesome to have a good night.”
It was a full-circle moment for Manoah, who embraced his return to the region.
“It meant a lot,” Manoah said. “Pregame, I’m in the outfield doing my warmups, kind of got emotional thinking, two years back, I’m sitting in the dugout, we’re playing Pitt, and I’m like, ‘man, I want to be in the big leagues playing here. Fast forward now, and I’m here doing it.”
Manoah’s WVU baseball family had a major presence inside the ballpark during this game, which saw the hurler toss 7.1 scoreless innings and six strikeouts. Current Mountaineers, including shortstop Tevin Tucker, the last remaining teammate of Manoah’s from the 2019 NCAA Regional team, cheered him on from a suite.
And of course, skipper Randy Mazey, his wife, Amanda, and their children, Weston and Sierra, were front and center for this memorable night.
When Manoah made his return to the diamond after the game ended, he made a beeline for the Mazey family. They embraced, posed for photos and laughed together.
Those moments were the epitome of that age-old phrase: “once a Mountaineer, always a Mountaineer.”
“They’ve meant the world to me,” Manoah said of the Mazey family. “They believed in me in high school…Just everything they’ve done for me through college. Coach Mazey has kind of been a father figure for me, and Amanda a mother figure. They really took care of me a lot, my three years at WVU.”
The win was Manoah’s 13th of the year, and it allowed the Blue Jays to improve to 71-59 overall, as they remain in the hunt for an AL Wild Card berth.