ARLINGTON, Texas — Sean Manaea’s father is from American Samoa, where he grew up playing cricket and rugby and didn’t really know anything about baseball.
The younger Manaea was born in Indiana, loved baseball from an early age and blossomed into a hard-throwing 6-foot-5 lefty who in his last start for the Oakland Athletics threw a no-hitter against the Boston Red Sox .
“My parents never played baseball,” Manaea said. “They just signed me up one day, and I was like, ‘All right, let’s do that.’ ... From then on, something grabbed me and just kept pulling me toward it. It’s just been my first love since I started playing.”
While Oakland’s first no-hitter since 2010 is certainly the highlight so far for Manaea, the 26-year-old is off to an impressive start overall in his third big league season.
Manaea has a 3-2 record — the A’s scored only one run total in his two losses — with a 1.23 ERA. His 36 2/3 innings matched the major league lead going into Tuesday night’s games. Opposing teams are hitting only .130 against him while managing 3.93 hits per nine innings, both second-best in the majors.
“A no-hitter obviously is a no-hitter. I’m looking forward to seeing what he’s going to do the rest of the season,” A’s catcher Jonathan Lucroy said. “The way he’s thrown so far this year is really, really special.”
Manaea struck out 10, walked two and threw 108 pitches in the 3-0 win at home Saturday night. Manaea mixed in changeups and sliders with his fastball against the best team in the big leagues so far this season.
“I don’t know how you don’t gain confidence from something like that. It’s one thing to throw a no-hitter. It’s another thing to throw a no-hitter against the Red Sox the way they’re playing,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “He’s a confident pitcher as is, but to be able to finish off a game like that should carry with him for a while.”
Manaea’s next start will be Friday night in Houston against the World Series champion Astros.
“I’m going to treat it like any other game. That’s what I did with the Red Sox, and what I’m going to do for the Astros,” Manaea said. “I’m not going to change anything just because something really cool happened.”
That no-no was the first for the A’s since Dallas Braden’s perfect game against Tampa Bay in 2010. It had been almost exactly 25 years since the Red Sox were held hitless.
Manaea’s father settled in Indiana after being stationed there in the Army, so except for his own family, he didn’t grow up around the Polynesian-like culture known for producing big football players, many of them now in the NFL, instead of big league pitchers.
“I played basketball from fourth grade to my sophomore year. I was tall and it was something to do in the winter,” he said. “It was fun for a while, but after my sophomore year, I was like, ‘Yeah this isn’t for me.’ I can’t dribble the ball, I’m not physical enough. I’m skinny.”
Manaea continued to progress and excel in baseball. He went to Indiana State and had a standout summer in the Cape Cod League before the Kansas City Royals picked him 34th overall in the 2013 amateur draft.
The Royals traded Manaea to Oakland in 2015 when acquiring Ben Zobrist. Manaea made his big league debut the next season, and in his 58th career start Saturday threw his first complete game.
“The thing that impresses me the most is he’s doing it differently than he did when he first got here,” Melvin said. “Just his stuff, he could get away with making some mistakes. ... He’s a three-pitch pitcher now. He commands both sides of the plate.”
Melvin describes him now as a “true pitcher” and not just a thrower anymore.
Manaea didn’t really get any sleep Saturday night.
“My mind was going a million miles a second, and I just couldn’t get that moment out of my head,” he said. “It’s something I never really dreamed of. ... It’s just a really, really cool moment.”
Before watching the highlights over and over throughout the night, he had a video call with his parents, who over the years have become obsessed with baseball like their son.
“They love everything about the A’s,” Manaea said. “Ever since I started getting more and more advanced with baseball, they were always there for me, and they drove me to practices, drove me to games. They’re all in on baseball.”