How Samoan roots connect these two new Giants
This story was excerpted from Maria Guardado’s Giants Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Shortly after being acquired by the Giants in December, Rule 5 Draft pick Blake Sabol was tasked with connecting with all the pitchers he’d be expected to catch once big league camp opened.
Armed with a team-issued Rolodex, Sabol managed to get most members of the pitching staff on the phone, though he initially struggled to get in touch with left-hander Sean Manaea. Once the two finally met in Arizona in January, though, they quickly bonded over their shared heritage.
“Sean's half-Samoan. I'm half-Samoan, as well,” Sabol said. “So I actually brought it up to him. I was like, ‘Dude, we might make history this year. We might be the first Samoan battery in big league history.’”
“It’d be incredible,” Manaea said. “I don’t think it has ever happened. It’d be a really, really cool thing to be a part of.”
Sabol, a native of Aliso Viejo, Calif., grew up in a vibrant Samoan community and stayed connected to his roots through his mother, who used to babysit his second cousin, NFL Hall of Famer Troy Polamalu. Manaea, by contrast, was raised in the small town of Wanatah, Ind., where his American Samoa-born father was stationed after serving in the Vietnam War.
“He grew up in Indiana,” Sabol said. “He was like, ‘Basically, I grew up a white kid.’”
Now that they share a clubhouse, Sabol is helping Manaea reconnect with Samoan culture, particularly through food. Sabol is already planning to have Manaea over for dinner later this week when his mom visits Arizona and brings Samoan dishes over from Southern California.
How would Sabol describe Samoan cuisine?
“One of the staples of Samoan food is taro root, and they cook it in coconut milk and coconut cream,” Sabol said. “It’s basically just a giant breadfruit type of thing, but they call it the Samoan steroid just because that’s what they eat growing up and they’re like ginormous. I mean, it’s all natural, it’s just a root.
“But they try to put coconut cream on pretty much damn near everything. Mussels, seafood, chicken. Everything is always marinated. It’s very similar to Hawaiian food, but I would say, honestly, probably worse for you. A little greasier, a little creamier. But it tastes great.”
Manaea didn’t grow up eating much Samoan food in Indiana, but he said he’s looking forward to expanding his palate soon.
“I’ve only been to American Samoa once, and that was pretty much fish and taro root and stuff like that,” Manaea said. “I don’t really know too much about the cuisine, but I’m always down to try new things.”