When the sportscasters refer to Sean Manaea as coming from Valparaiso, it makes Dewey Bucher cringe.
"I wish they'd say Wanatah," Bucher said. "There's a lot of local pride."
Bucher's claim to fame is being the guy who pointed the Oakland A's pitcher to the mound for the first time when he was a gangly seventh- grader in Wanatah Middle School. He's not taking any credit for Manaea's recent no-hitter against Boston, but like everyone else in the rural stretch of LaPorte County, he was thrilled for the local kid done good.
"It was right at the time Sean was making a decision on whether to go to LaCrosse or South Central," Bucher said. "He was a tall kid for his age, long, lanky, arms, left-handed. He was made for either first base or pitcher. Obviously, he grew up into a man's body. He was wild enough to be effective. His demeanor was he always had a smile on his face. He had a short enough memory to not worry about what just happened and just get the next guy."
By the time Saturday's west coast game was winding down, Bucher had already turned in for the night, only to be awakened a couple times with phone calls from his sons about what Manaea had done.
"I'm so happy for him and his family, it just makes you smile," Bucher said. "They're great people. It reminds you that good things happen to good people. He just deserves it. Obviously, he was blessed with God-given ability, but there was the time, effort, willingness to work and family support that's so important."
Bucher remembers plenty of days leaving the practice field when Manaea was still there throwing to his dad Sam, sitting on a bucket behind home plate. He followed him while he was at South Central and Andrean, with the Hammond Chiefs during summer ball and on to college at Indiana State. He was drafted by the Royals before a trade to the A's afforded him the opportunity to establish himself at the major league level.
"His sophomore, junior year in college, he went to the Cape Cod League and ripped it up all summer," Bucher said. "That's where he hit the map. I remember seeing his mom once and she said, if I had kept coaching at LaCrosse, he would've stayed there. That would've been cool, but everything happens for a reason. Andrean and (Dave) Pishkur was a natural fit for him, the Chiefs. He landed in the right spots. I wish the Cardinals had drafted him but they weren't smart enough to take him."
While Manaea finished up his high school career at Andrean, there's still plenty of love for him at South Central and the Wanatah area, where his folks still live in the same home where Sean grew up. His cousin, Marcus Walker, was wearing a Manaea jersey and A's hat, increasingly popular apparel in the U.S. 30/421 area, during Monday's Satellites game. It's been the talk of the town since Saturday night, when S.C. prom goers were watching the latter stages of the game on their phones.
"We were texting back and forth. It was awesome," Walker said. "A lot of people are asking about it. Sean's very family-oriented. He comes home for the holidays. He's big on the community. He's been back for the Scarecrow Fest. It's pretty cool, coming from a small town."