The West Virginia University baseball team has never had a higher national profile than it does right now, and that could be a very good thing for Mountaineer coach Randy Mazey and the future of the program.
WVU is coming off a four-day stretch that saw the Mountaineers host an NCAA tournament regional weekend followed by the ace of the pitching staff, junior right-hander Alek Manoah, being drafted No. 11 overall by the Toronto Blue Jays on Monday.
West Virginia has never been what most would consider a marquee college baseball program, but what Mazey has done to put the Mountaineers on the map could, and should, pay off in the form of being in the mix for higher-caliber recruits than they have in the past.
“It’s great for college baseball in general,” Mazey said. “AK [Manoah] was undrafted out of high school and he could have signed pro out of high school if he wanted to, but he was really confident in himself and his abilities and his opportunity to develop at West Virginia.”
Manoah was the 21st West Virginia player drafted since Mazey took over the program seven years ago. In that time, Mazey, who also serves as the WVU pitching coach, has done a particularly good job of developing pitchers. Manoah obviously is the crown jewel of that bunch, but the Mountaineers also have seen Michael Grove, a former Wheeling Park High standout, picked last season in the second round by the Los Angeles Dodgers and on Wednesday’s Manoah’s teammates and fellow pitchers Nick Snyder (Arizona Diamondbacks, 11th round) and Kade Strowd (12th round, Baltimore Orioles) were picked up.
John Means, another former WVU standout under Mazey, has been one of the bright spots in the Orioles starting rotation this season while Harrison Musgrave, an in-state product who starred at Notre Dame and Bridgeport high schools, has thrown 10 innings for the Colorado Rockies so far this season.
Manoah’s situation is a little bit different, however. Being a first-round pick comes with first-round expectations. Now, if hecan live up to those it only reflects well on the job WVU did developing the 6-foot-6 hurler during his time in Morgantown.
“We knew he was the type of guy that could develop into what he is right now,” Mazey said. “So it’s really, really good for the Mountaineers.”
Feeling the draft
Manoah was part of a run on Big 12 players during the early portion of the Major League Baseball draft on Monday.
TCU ace left-hander Nick Lodolo was the first of the conference’s stars to come off the board when the Cincinnati Reds picked him up at No. 7 overall. In a bit of a surprise, the Texas Rangers took Texas Tech’s Josh Jung — the Big 12 Player of the Year — next at No. 8. The Atlanta Braves were next at No. 9 and took Baylor catcher Shea Langeliers. The streak of Big 12 players going was broken at No. 10 when the San Francisco Giants went with Arizona State outfielder Hunter Bishop, but the Blue Jays went back to the Big 12 well to scoop up Manoah at No. 11.
The Braves also picked up Texas A&M shortstop Braden Shewmake, who was part of the Aggie team that eliminated West Virginia on Sunday before falling to Duke in the NCAA Morgantown Regional final, at No. 21 overall. Baylor third baseman Davis Wendzel was taken with a compensatory pick at No. 41 overall by the Rangers.
Texas high school standout Bobby Witt Jr., the son of former big leaguer Bobby Witt and an Oklahoma signee, was selected No. 2 overall on Monday by the Kansas City Royals.