When Joe Mantiply stepped into the coaches' office that August evening, aspirations of being promoted from Single-A West Michigan were far from the first thing that came to his mind. In fact, his first thought trailed to the left-handed batter he had walked during his outing earlier that evening.
Mantiply's naiveté was not lost on Whitecaps pitching coach, Mike Henneman, and Henneman decided to have a little fun with his young southpaw.
"I knew he wanted to talk about left-handed hitters," Mantiply said. "He sat me down, him and (Andrew) Graham, and Henny's telling me, ‘Hey, when you get to the next level, you're really gonna have to bear down on these left-handed hitters.' All of a sudden, Graham told me, ‘Have fun in Erie' and I kind of sat back and was like, ‘Are you serious?' It was an awesome moment."
If there's one thing to be said of Mantiply, it's that he has truly perfected the art of flying off the radar. So much so in fact, that you would be hard-pressed to hear Mantiply mentioned in the chatter regarding the Detroit Tigers' crop of prospective talent.
Does this speak against Mantiply's abilities? Not in the least. The up-and-coming left-hander's subtlety has continued to carry him one step at a time towards the rubber at Comerica Park.
To the 6-foot-4 native of Danville, Virginia, it's been a game of consistency since the beginning. As a freshman at Tunstall High School, Mantiply recalls the start to his pitching journey as something less than memorable.
"I did really well in tryouts and then in our first scrimmage of the year, I did absolutely terrible," Mantiply said.
Following his regular season struggle, he made the most of a fresh opportunity. Mantiply went on to pitch in the district championship, the regional championship, and the state semifinal games for which he recorded three consecutive wins.
How would one go about explaining the sudden improvement? Well, to Mantiply, its simple.
"Something just clicked, I guess," Mantiply said, "I don't know."
Whatever clicked that day was enough to grab the attention of multiple major league teams, who caught wind of the production that Mantiply was bringing to the table. Despite the sudden interest, Mantiply's desire to improve as a player would ultimately be the deciding factor.
"I didn't even think I was going to get drafted," Mantiply said. "I wasn't expecting that at all. There wasn't that much interest for me to play pro ball yet, so I kind of knew that I needed to go to college, to get better, to get stronger and all that stuff."
As a four-year starter at Virginia Tech, Mantiply was not your typical showstopper. In place of an electric fastball, Mantiply used a combination of his left-handed positioning and finesse to command each performance. The combination was a quality that Mantiply's childhood idol, Tom Glavine, similarly possessed.
Coming into his first full season with West Michigan in 2014, Mantiply was masterful and it did not go unnoticed. Following his brief campaign in Double-A Erie, the Tigers extended a well-deserved invitation to Mantiply to attend the 2014 Arizona Fall League. Suddenly, the thought of a curly-haired youngster making an appearance on Opening Day wasn't such a foreign concept for the 23-year-old.
Mantiply isn't adding any additional pressure, as he knows whatever ‘just clicked' before, will slip back into place once the season rolls back around.
"My goal is going to be to make the big league out of spring training," Mantiply said. "It's definitely going to be tough, but I think I'm right in the mix and I think I've put myself in a good position."
The chatter hasn't seemed to affect the mellow golf enthusiast, who has shifted his focus to regaining some pride in the family legacy this offseason.
Although, don't expect him to be caught trading his changeup for an argyle sweater vest anytime soon.
"My goal off the field is to try and chase down my brother and maybe one day take some of his money on the golf course," Mantiply said with a chuckle.