(Wanatah, IN) - A LaPorte County family returned with special memories after convoying to Wrigley Field in Chicago to watch a close relative pitch and visit him after last week's game.
Sean Manaea, who grew up in Wanatah, pitches for the San Diego Padres after several seasons with the Oakland A's
The Padres beat Cubs 12-5. Manaea allowing five runs in four innings, was not credited with the win.
Manaea's cousin, Marcus Walker, didn't seem to mind the subpar performance of a man he knew was destined for something special after watching him throw for the first time while growing up. He lived within a short walk of the house Manaea was raised.
"When I watched my cousin throw a baseball, it was like, Dude. You have a gift," Walker said.
Walker said he and 20 other family members and friends watched the June 14 game from the first row behind home plate and visited with Manaea outside the clubhouse after the game. The entire group and Manaea then walked across the street from the ballpark and had dinner together.
"It was pretty exciting to see Sean. After the game, he goes holy, moly, there's a lot of you guys here," Walker said.
Manaea's mother, Opal, went to the game, but Walker said his father, Faaloloi, feeling under the weather, stayed home.
Mr. Manaea relocated from American Samoa to Hawaii, served in the Vietnam War then landed in Wanatah after being stationed in Indiana. He became a steel worker along Lake Michigan's shores after completing his military service. Mrs. Manaea was a factory worker.
Manaea was a South Central High School star baseball player before transferring his senior year to Andrean High School in Merrillville to pitch against stronger competition.
Walker said Sean was always much better than everyone else in baseball as a youth. His uncanny ability to throw hard with accuracy was not overlooked by anyone who watched him play. Manaea went on to pitch at Indiana State University, where he was inducted into that school's sports Hall of Fame last year.
Walker, a Noble Township Volunteer Fire Department member, said Manaea was back home at Christmas and remains down to earth. He's also paid several visits to his former high school about 10 miles south of LaPorte since making it to the major leagues seven seasons ago.
Manaea has a career 53-44 record and ERA of 3.83.