|The Epicenter in Rancho Cucamonga, Ca. Austin Manahan played at the Epicenter late in his career, in 1993 and briefly in 1994. (G21D Photo)|
Part 3: Every Spring
Austin Manahan still believed he could make the majors, even late in his career.
The start of a new season can do that for a player, even for a former first-round pick who'd long since lost the luster of that title.
"That's probably the reason why I hung around so long," Manahan told The Greatest 21 Days recently. "I was pretty fresh in spring training. I looked like a good player in spring training. I looked like a first-round pick in spring training, you know?"
His legs were fresh. His head was fresh. His bat wasn't so heavy, he recalled.
"It was once you got into that season, day after day," Manahan continued. "The back gets tired. The elbow is sore and the shoulder is sore and the knees hurt. After about May 20th, it's like 'Holy cow, I'm going to get thrown out if I steal. I've lost a step."
|Sam Lynn Ballpark in Bakersfield in 2012. Austin Manahan played at Sam Lynn for Rancho Cucamonga in 1993. (G21D Photo)|
Manahan spoke to The Greatest 21 Days recently by phone from his Arizona home, where he now works as a real estate agent.
Manahan told of catching the eye of scouts during his senior year in high school, his selection 13th overall in the 1988 draft and then his immediate troubles with the daily rigors of minor league baseball.
And those troubles never really went away.
Manahan's really good season in his third. He hit .302 in 96 games at single-A Augusta and then .279 in 41 games at high-A Salem. But that season took a lot out of him, he recalled.
Coming out of that year, the Pirates asked Manahan to play winter ball. He was one of four players from the organization sent to play ball in Australia.
Manahan played for the Parramatta Patriots in a suburb of Sydney. He called it a fun experience, but also one that came after a long season.
|Knights Stadium in Fort Mill, SC, in 2012. Austin Manahan played at Knights in 1992 with visiting Carolina. (G21D Photo)|
Still, he said, he's glad he had the experience.
When he got back stateside, the success he had in that 1990 season was gone. Playing at high-A Salem for a full season, he hit just .211. He made AA Carolina in 1992, but he still could do no better than .221.
Then the former first-round pick was released.
Manahan caught on with the Expos to start 1993. Assigned to high-A West Palm Beach, Manahan recalled the Montreal organization being quite a bit different than Pittsburgh. They were more hands-on.
"I would say definitely the Expos gave me a little bit more feedback an coached a little bit more than the other organizations," Manahan said.
Manahan stayed with the Expos for just 77 games. He hit .237 in the Florida State League before being traded to the Padres. He spent the rest of that season and the start of the next at high-A Rancho Cucamonga.
|Bakersfield's Sam Lynn Ballpark in 2012. Austin Manahan played at Sam Lynn in 1993 with Rancho Cucamonga. (G21D Photo)|
"Even with the Cubs," Manahan said, "here I am in spring training with the Cubs and I go, 'Who is this guy? He can run. He can throw. He can hit.'
"Then I went into that next season, which ended up being my last," Manahan continued, "and got into a slump and struggled again. It was kind of the same old me."
Then just .212 at Orlando in 1995, ending his career.
By the time the end came, the player who had been taken out of high school was 25 and he had a child. No one was there to pick him up, at least no one whose offer didn't include a trip back to A-ball.
It was time to move on.
"When spring training rolls around, you get that weird feeling in your gut," Manahan said of those first few years out of the game, "because every springtime since you were 7 you were playing baseball."
Mahanan has been a real estate agent in Arizona for about nine years now. It's a job he says allows him the flexible schedule to spend time with his kids.
"I just enjoy the lifestyle out here and the sunshine," Manahan said, "and, yeah, it's good."
Part 1: His Shot | Part 2: Difficult Start
Part 3: Every Spring
Be sure and read Part 1: Austin Manahan, His Shot