St. John's of Shrewsbury catcher Scott Manea signed a National Letter of Intent with North Carolina State on Monday night, alongside one of his teammates, lefthander/outfield P.J. Browne (Merrimack). And with it, one of the area's more sudden bursts on the recruiting scene had cemented his rise.
Manea hit .320 with 20 RBI this past spring for the Pioneers, described by head coach Charlie Eppinger as "a power hitter who just didn't show a ton of it for us." New Mexico State was among the most significant schools showing early interest during that period.
Then last August, Manea put on for a boat load of scouts at the annual Area Code Games in Long Beach, Calif., showing off his power but also his poise behind the plate, recording pop times around 1.9 seconds. Shortly after the games, Manea gave his pledge to NC State, choosing the Wolfpack over Vanderbilt, Boston College, Maine and the aforementioned New Mexico State.
How does a guy like Manea -- who by many accounts showed special intangibles early -- suddenly explode seemingly so late in the recruiting process? I chatted with Wolfpack pitching coach Tom Holliday this afternoon, and he had some interesting things to note about the rising prospect:
How Holliday came about recruiting Manea: "There’s several different ways to find these kids today, because it's almost like they're overexposed. I've been doing this for such a long time that I put lot of value on professional baseball people, and the tryouts for the East Coast [Pro] Showcase -- which is all professional evaluators -- some scouts, good friends of mine, said you wanna take shot at this guy, and this guy, and this guy...We were hunting for an offensive catcher, because we're gonna lose our guy, and Scott's name came up as a guy we needed to get according these guys.
"Something came up, and I didn't have a chance to go to the East Coast Showcase, but I kept my list, and I went to the Area Code Games [in Long Beach, Calif.]. My biggest concern was, is he still open, for some reason these kids are committing so early and you wonder what's going on. I thought, I saw him hit eight or nine times, and I think he hit the ball right on the nose on six of them, and we're talking facing every guy there between 88 and 95 miles an hour. To me, if a guy plays at this level [ACC] as a freshman, he's gonna have to hold his own against that kind of pitching, and he absolutely nailed the ball. Then I watched him infield. I watched him catch, he threw two guys out, he does it the right way. He doesn't have a lot of extra foot movement, short quick steps, very accurate arm, and you know what? If I saw him at his best, and if you can turn up to that level in front of the entire baseball world times six -- because I think at Area Code Games almost an entire scouting staff is there, every cross-checker from every organization is there -- if a guy can turn up there then that's good enough for me.
"I don't want to sit on a kid five times locally, one day he hits 82 mile per hour pitching, then the next day 78, then the next day they don't pitch to him...I want to see him at the best. I've done this for 30 years, and I had him as the top offensive catcher at Area Code Games, and I had him top two catchers there. Quite frankly it was a no-brainer to me. Then I start thinking about why he is open, and after spending 48 hours with he and his mother, I could see why. They're the kind of people that are smart, eyes open, know what they want, and I think pro baseball is definitely in the picture. I like kids that want to play in the big league."
On what kind of intangibles he has, and why he may have been a late bloomer: "I'm born and raised in Pennsylvania, and I was considered the best catching prospect in Pennsylvania when 16-17 years old. When I went and did a tryout right before the draft my senior year of high school, all of a sudden these guys show up that I don't know, they'd get drafted and I didn’t. I course I talked about going to school, which was mistake, guys passed me up, but I guess I was considered an early bloomer. I don't second guess anything I did, I went to a College World Series...would I say that about Scott? No, because I never saw him before, but you don’t get invited to a pro workout that has eight to 10 states involved unless some people in the pro world have an eye on you. When I played in those games they never divulged names, they kept it a secret. Today everyone wants to divulge everyone because they want to help each other, nobody wants to be surprised because it could cost a guy his job. In Scott's case, people knew about him. My job is to find players, and there's no one place in the country that a player has to come from."
How Manea calls a game: "I was impressed with the way he handled kids in the game. It's an all-star game and kids he's catching are really good, and it looked to me like he was in total control."
Where he needs to improve: "The one thing Scotty is gonna be challenged on, he's got a very mature body and as I told him, he looks like he's been in the minor leagues catching for two years. He's got to keep up with the Jones' in the conditioning category. Today I feel like there are more workout plans than players, and every time I talk to him he's either on the way to the gym or it's after just got done. I think in cold country that's the challenge, to get in tip-tup shape and get awesome."