Matt Manning

Matt Manning, a 2016 Sheldon High School graduate, made his Major League Baseball debut this past season with the Detroit Tigers. He’s a part of a young, promising pitching staff in Detroit.

Matt Manning was the number one draft choice of the Detroit Tigers just days after graduating from Sheldon High School in 2016. The 6-7 right-hander was throwing 90-plus mph fastballs in high school and pro baseball scouts would come watch him throw on a regular basis his senior season.

Manning chose a baseball career over playing basketball collegiately at Loyola-Marymount University with which he signed a National Letter of Intent. After being groomed for four-and-a-half years in the Tiger organization, he finally reached the Majors on June 17, 2021. He started 18 games for Detroit, had a 4-7 record with a 5.80 ERA.

He recently visited his parents in Elk Grove and the Citizen caught up with this promising Major League Baseball pitcher.

Citizen: You see some guys come out of school, quickly make it to the majors at age 19, 20 and then wash out. Then there’s guys, like you, who develop in the minors, get to the Majors at 22, 23, like you, and then they spend 10, 15 years and have good careers. What do you think it takes?

Manning: Every guy is different. With the baseball and how it is operated on the business side with service time and that stuff and the free agent market, that comes into play for guys. I think it’s different for each case. I think I got there in a good time. I was able to handle it and actually produce for the team.

Citizen: It seems like even going back into your days at Sheldon that your coaches watched your pitch count, sort of grooming you, preparing you for the future. It seems like it all has come together and worked for you.

Manning: Yes, it’s all about health for a pitcher. When it comes time to play and you’re available, there’s always going to be a spot for you. I think the most important place to play is in the Big Leagues, and so there’s no waste of pitching.

Citizen: The Tigers have been down in recent years, but there seems to be some baseball folks that talk about your team being on the way up. They like the prospect of you, (Casey) Mize on the pitching staff to go with a potential Hall-of-Famer in Miguel Cabrera at DH, and a lot of talent elsewhere. Are you really looking forward to next year?

Manning: Yes, I am. Last year was a good year for all of us to see where we are at. I think we’re going to add in some good free agents, add in some pieces, but, with the experience we’ve had last year and the year before, it’s all go now. All the gloves are off. We’re going to try to win as many ball games as we can.

Citizen: We’ve been following you and your teammate, Derek Hill, who played at Elk Grove (and was Detroit’s No. 1 draft choice in 2014). Does Derek have a realistic, solid role next year? Will he be your centerfielder? 

Manning: Yes, I think he’ll be in centerfield. I think as long as the health stuff subsides, he stays on the field. I know the pitching staff wants him in centerfield. I know our manager, A.J. Hinch, and the organization wants him out there. It is amazing what he does. He’s a couple years older than me. I’ve watched him, played for his dad on his scout ball team, so I know him and his dad very well. Being with him growing up and being with him in pro ball has been great.

Citizen: Do you have guys on the pitching staff there in Detroit that you can bounce stuff off, ideas off, to support one another?

Manning: Yeah, for sure, there are guys like Tarik Skubal, one of my good buddies, I’m going to his wedding next week. Casey Mize, one of my good buddies, was the first pick in 2018, I have a good relationship with. We were all three in the minor leagues together. We share with each other a lot hoping that each other does well, helping our team to win.

Citizen: Give me the names of just two guys who you wish you would never have to pitch to again.

Manning: I would have to say Jose Ramirez of the Indians is one. Incredible hitter. Vladdy Junior (Vladmir Guerrero, Jr) is very good. And, Tim Anderson of the White Sox is very, very good.

Citizen: Did you face Rowdy (Tellez, former Elk Grove H.S. player) when he was in the American League?

Manning: I just missed him because he was on the injured list a couple days before we came in. I did face Dylan (Carlson, another former Elk Grove H.S. player) when they came to Coamerica (Park, the home stadium of the Tigers).

Citizen: It just seems as though there are nothing but positives ahead for you in the Majors next season and in the seasons to come. Would you agree?

Manning: Yes, I think so. I think getting to the Big Leagues is entirely a beast unto itself. And, the only way to experience it is to be there. And, there are those struggles. I think out of 18 starts I had a great run of games. In 11 of them I gave up two runs or less. So, in those games I gave my team a good chance to win. Now it’s a matter of minimizing those games when things get out of control.

Citizen: It wasn’t that long ago when you were playing basketball and we remember how good you were at playing basketball (he was the Delta League MVP in 2016). Your teammate Isaiah Brooks is still playing at Chico State. You guys were part of a terrific team your senior year. Do you miss basketball?

Manning: Yeah, for sure. Basketball has always been the sport I’ve enjoyed playing the most. It was a fun experience playing with those guys. We all still stay in touch. There were a bunch of memories there I wouldn’t trade for anything.

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