Mancini grew up as neighbors with Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Matt Diaz, a Lakeland, Florida resident. Mancini was a member of the Sunshine State's heralded 2010 high school class, and he showed off against some of the state's top competition, when he led Polk County in hitting.
"Growing up I played tennis until high school -- when I stopped to concentrate on baseball," Trey said.
In 2010, Trey graduated from Winter Haven High School in Florida, hitting .480 with 23 runs scored, 10 doubles, six home runs and 31 RBI and registered a .506 on-base percentage and .853 slugging percentage.
Trey's freshman year at Notre Dame (2011), he led the Fighting Irish team in the triple crown categories by hitting .323/.385/.577 with 9 home runs and 34 RBIs, earning Big East Rookie of the Year honors.
In 2013, his junior year, Mancini led the Big East Conference in batting (.389), and total bases (138) while ranking 2nd in slugging (.603).
June 2013: The Orioles chose Mancini in the 8th round, out of Notre Dame. And he signed for a bonus of $151,900, via scout Kirk Fredriksson.
In 2014, the Baseball America Prospect Handbook rated Mancini as the 25th-best prospect in the Orioles organization. He fell to #30 in the spring of 2015. But a fine 2015 season moved Trey all they way up to 8th-best in the O's farm system in the winter before 2016 spring training.
And in the spring of 2017, they had Trey at 5th-best prospect in the O's system.
Trey provides leadership to a clubhouse. He has a great attitude. A solid makeup guy and a winner. Mancini really wants this big league career thing to happen. He comes from a good family in central Florida.
In 2015, Mancini was named the Orioles Minor League Player of the Year. Trey slashed .341/.375/.563 with 21 home runs, 89 RBI, and 70 total extra base hits across High- and Double-A.
Mancini won the Eastern League batting title by hitting .359 in 84 games after being promoted to Bowie. With Bowie, Mancini was also part of a championship-winning team. The 6’4″ first baseman also nearly halved his error total, down from nine in 2014 to just five in 126 total games. On his way to a .341 batting average, Mancini recorded 15 three-hit games and two four-hit games.
September 20, 2016: There may not be a better way to endear yourself to a city in your Major League debut. With the Orioles hitless through 4 2/3 innings Tuesday night, Trey Mancini stepped to the plate for his second-career at-bat and crushed a homer to left-center field for his first big league hit in the Orioles' 5-2 loss to the Red Sox.
Sept 24, 2016: Orioles rookie Trey Mancini is making quite the name for himself in a short period of time. Mancini, became just the third player in Major League Baseball history to homer in each of his first three starts with a solo blast in the 6-1 win over the D-backs.
"It's been incredible, you know?" Mancini said. "I could never imagine it happening this way, and it's still hard to believe. A week ago, I was down in Florida prepared for this, but it's cool, a week later, with everything that's happened, to be here in Baltimore and to contribute to it, to a postseason run." Mancini, who joins Trevor Story (who also did it this year) and Carlos Quentin, went deep off D-Backs reliever Robbie Ray to open the fourth inning and give the O's a 3-0 lead.
"That's a great, great guy. He's having a lot of fun, too," said Orioles outfielder Mark Trumbo, who hit his MLB-leading 45th home run also. "It's really impressive. This is a tough level; he's facing real quality pitching up to this point, and he's made the most of it."
"The biggest surprise? I think maybe the amount of support I've gotten from the fans and community and how many of my really close friends and family have come out to watch," Mancini said of his first week in the Majors. "Not that that was a surprise, but that's probably been the best part of the week for me." (B Ghiroli - MLB.com - Sept 25, 2016)
According to his former college coach, there's still a role Mancini could excel in at the big league level.
"[Orioles manager] Buck Showalter could tell him that he has to clean the bathrooms every single day to get playing time, and he'd be in there cleaning the bathrooms," Notre Dame baseball coach Mik Aoki said in a Glenn Clark Radio interview April 19, 2017.
Mancini was already on the Fighting Irish roster when Aoki left Boston College to take over the Notre Dame program in 2011. Aoki had heard from an assistant that Mancini was a good hitter, but it wasn't enough for Aoki to fully jump on board immediately.
"The one mistake I made with Trey is that he didn't start his very first game of his college career," Aoki said. "That's probably the one mistake that I made, that he sat on the bench in his very first game. But I corrected that pretty quickly, and so he started every single other game, I think, along the way as long as he was healthy."
That decision paid off, as over the course of the next two seasons Mancini hit .320 with 21 home runs and 79 RBIs for the Irish in 107 games. The skill set that allowed him to work his way through the Orioles' system was on display quickly.
"The thing that I think I really came to appreciate is he's a really aggressive hitter," Aoki said. "So sometimes you can make him look bad early in a count, throw him a slider when he's looking for a fastball-type of a thing. But the thing that I really became appreciative of with him was the way that if a pitcher went back to that same well, they often times played a pretty severe price for it.
"It's just his pitch recognition and his ability to just make adjustments in the course of one at-bat was really, really impressive. And it was something that you had to see over a period of time to really, truly appreciate it."
As much as Mancini's baseball ability has carried him to a place where he's become Baltimore's newest baseball folk hero, his former coach believes his qualities as a human being have played an equal role.
"I believe really, really strongly that long-term success in anything you do is driven by the character of the person," Aoki said. "Trey comes from a great family; Beth and Tony are phenomenal people. His sisters are great kids, and Trey is just a terrific, terrific human being. I think that when he gets back to who and what he is—he understands the hard work that goes into it, he understands that team-first mentality."
Yet Aoki warns those qualities shouldn't be taken for granted.
"I just know the type of kid that he is. He's a terrific kid. [But] I don't think that anyone should ever mistake how driven he is to be successful with what a nice kid he is," Aoki said. "If he goes into a little bit of a slump, he gets pretty ornery. But he's never going to let that be in the way of treating people the right way and making the right decisions, representing his family and the Orioles in the very best light that he can." (Glenn Clark - Press Box-April 20, 2017)
When Trey was a kid, he told his father, Tony, that he wanted to be a professional baseball player. Despite how difficult that path can be, there was no doubt in Tony's mind that it could happen.
"[My parents] thought it was awesome," Mancini said. "I think they were kind of like me, someone's got to make the Major Leagues. You know, there's a 4-year-old right now that's going to make the Major Leagues one day. So why not me?"
Growing up, Mancini lived just 30 minutes from Disney World, which is where the family would always go out to dinner for Father's Day. But this year, the family will be going out in Baltimore, after Tony spends his Father's Day watching his son play at Camden Yards.
Between the ages of 3 and 5, Mancini would spend the majority of weekends at Disney. When he wasn't at the park, Mancini was outside playing catch with his father. Although Tony was a doctor and did not always have a lot of spare time, any free second went to playing with and supporting Mancini in any way he could.
"When I was 3, I would have him throw me a ball and wouldn't let him go inside until I caught it," Mancini said. "It would take like an hour at times. But yeah, he would always do whatever it took to help me accomplish my dreams." (Bell - mlb.com - 6/15/17)
Trey has a lot of baseball memories that he has shared with his father, but the one that sticks out most to him is from when he was just 5 or 6 years old, playing T-ball.
"We had like 100-foot fields, so we could actually hit home runs at the time," Mancini said. "And I remember hitting my first home run of my life and I remember my parents behind home plate with their arms up. You know, they were really happy. I just remember seeing them as I was rounding the bases. It was awesome."
Not only did his parents support him in the bleachers, but, as many parents do, they also made a lot of sacrifices for him to be able to pursue baseball as a career that he has not forgotten.
"They sacrificed a lot for me," Mancini said. "There were probably some cool vacations that we could've gone on and stuff but we were staying at Best Westerns in the middle of nowhere for baseball tournaments. Stuff like that I definitely don't take for granted."
The closeness that Mancini had with his father has not gone away. Father and son talk at least once each week, and the humility Tony has always had has never changed. Tony has always stressed a team-first mindset that Mancini has carried with him throughout his baseball career.
In June 2017, in a game against the Pirates, Mancini had a pinch-hit, game-tying home run in the ninth inning before hitting a walk-off home run in extras. The slugger heard from his dad after the game, but the praise was not on his individual performance, but the team's success.
"He texted me and was like, 'Great job,'" Mancini said. "He was proud, but he was like, 'Good job contributing to a win,' is pretty much what he said. He's a pretty understated guy, just like me." (Bell - mlb.com - 6/15/17)
2017 Rookie Year: Mancini had a 17-game hitting streak from Sept. 11-29, the longest by a rookie in club history and the longest by a first-year player in the Majors this season.
Mancini's 159 hits ranked first among qualified rookies, finishing ahead of Astros first baseman Yuli Gurriel (158), Benintendi (155), and Judge (154). He also led rookies with 47 multi-hit games and was second in batting average, third in slugging percentage, fourth in on-base percentage, fifth in RBIs and tied for seventh in home runs. In a year without Aaron Judge, Mancini would have had a strong case for winning the AL Rookie of the Year Award. The only two Orioles with more homers in their rookie season were Hall of Famers Cal Ripken Jr. and Eddie Murray.
Mancini finished 3rd in the AL Rookie of the Year voting.
Nov 17, 2017: Country music superstar Brett Young got a VIP clubhouse tour and played catch with Orioles outfielder Trey Mancini at Camden Yards in a special interview that will air on Country Music Television's (CMT) Hot 20.
The segment will air with Mancini and Young bonding and helping CMT host Katie Cook practice her grip. Mancini—coming off a breakout season in which he was named as an American League Rookie of the Year finalist— swapped baseball stories with Young, who was a college pitcher at the University of Mississippi.
"It was an absolute pleasure to meet Brett," Mancini said. "I enjoyed getting to hear his story. He has a huge passion for baseball and you could tell he was excited to be back in a baseball park. It's a pretty cool thing for him to chase another passion and succeed after injuries ended his baseball career." Mancini and Young—whose baseball aspirations were cut short by an elbow injury—talked to Cook about how fans drive them and make their dreams and careers possible.
While Mancini isn't a huge country music fan, Orioles manager and Mississippi State alumnus Buck Showalter is.
"I really enjoy Brett's music, even though he went to Ole Miss," Showalter said, paying homage to the rivalry between the two schools. "I was disappointed that I couldn't be at the ballpark to show him around, but I look forward to watching [the show]." (B Ghiroli - MLB.com - Nov 18, 2017)
Tony Mancini's heroes growing up were Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris. But it was an admiration from afar; Mancini grew up in Florida and didn't have much of an opportunity to see those legendary Yankees play. Mancini had a love of baseball, but didn't play himself.
So when his wife, Beth, signed up their 4-year-old son for T-ball in 1996, he thought it would be great for him to play and learn about team sports. That was the extent of it. "I never thought Trey would be a baseball player," Tony said. "I thought he would be a scientist or maybe go into medicine."
The latter occupation would have been fitting considering Tony is a doctor. But he didn't push his son in any specific direction, instead letting him find his own path and passion. Besides, there are a few prerequisites for becoming a doctor. "He doesn't like the sight of blood," Tony said. "So he found another profession."
"I can't stand blood," Trey said. "He and my uncle, who I'm really close with, are both doctors. I mean, they said, 'Do it if you want. But if you're passionate about something else, just go for that. Because it's a high-stress job.' They love what they do. But it's not for everybody, and I decided early on it wasn't for me."
Trey would end up in another occupation some might characterize as high stress when factoring in the 95 to 100 mph fastballs thrown in your general direction from 60 feet and six inches away. And while his dad never played the game, his love for it was passed on through setting up a tee in front of the garage at their home in Winter Haven, Fla., with the object of the game being to hit the tennis ball over the bushes.
T-ball turned into Little League, and Little League turned into travel ball. In 2019, Tony was sitting in the visitors’ dugout at Coors Field, watching his son go through pregame stretches before the Orioles played the Rockies. Several of the players' fathers had accompanied the club on this road trip, a tradition started last season, and coming three weeks ahead of Father's Day. "Now we have the ultimate travel ball experience," Tony said.
Trey is constantly away during the season, traveling all over the country, perhaps not seeing his father as much as he'd like during that part of the year. "Baseball's always been a father-son connection," Trey said. "You always played catch with your dad as a kid. They stayed in cheap motels with you across the country on travel teams. You sacrifice a lot of cool vacations you could be going on to kind of stay in some obscure location for baseball. All of our parents made huge sacrifices for all of us."
The father-son connection was poignant over the weekend in Colorado. Something special that Tony has always been sure to take in is whenever a youngster's eyes light up as Trey signs a baseball. He gets a photo on his phone when that scenario arises, and sends it home to Beth. Maybe it's because he never had that moment with Mantle or Maris, and now his son was giving it to someone else. (Randhawa - mlb.com - 5/26/19)
July 16, 2019: Mancini received the MLB Players Alumni Association "Heart and Hustle" award for the Orioles. This esteemed award honors active players who demonstrate a passion for the game of baseball and best embody the values, spirit and traditions of the game. The Heart and Hustle Award is also the only award in Major League Baseball that is voted on by former players.
"I am a huge Harry Potter fan. I went to several midnight premieres," Trey said.
"My teammates consider me the team weatherman. If it looks like there might be a rain delay, or if bad weather is coming, they always ask me what's going to happen."
Mancini said, "I was a straight-A student. I didn't make my first B until my junior year. Then, I graduated from Notre Dame with a degree in political science."
"I live in Nashville in the off-season, but I hate country music."
And, Trey said, "My great gradfather started a pepper company in 1922 -- Mancini Peppers -- which is still operating today." (Orioles Magazine - July, 2019)
When Trey Mancini was around 8 years old, a family friend named Ray Mouton gave him a nickname that would wind up standing the test of time. Noting how he shared a last name with famed boxer Ray Mancini, Mouton, whose son was Little League teammates with Trey, began calling the budding slugger “Boom Boom.” It was the same moniker as Ray Mancini, who won three consecutive WBA lightweight titles in the early '80s.
A few years later, Mancini and another teammate grew into forces in the middle of their Little League lineup. Teammates called the other kid “Bam Bam” and Trey “Boom Boom,” because “we were both giant 12-year-olds who liked hitting home runs.” The nickname stuck, eventually morphing into “Boomer” during Mancini’s college years at Notre Dame.
“Most of my college friends call me ‘Boomer’ and not ‘Trey,’” Mancini said. “I feel like there are some people who might not even know my real name.” (Joe Trezza - MLB.com - Aug. 6, 2019)
September 20, 2019: Trey was long the favorite to claim the 2019 Louis M. Hatter Most Valuable Oriole Award, given annually to Baltimore's top player by the local media, given his breakout 2019. The Orioles’ most consistent hitter since Opening Day, Mancini has set career-highs in hits, double, homers, runs scored, RBI, and walks, ranking among the AL’s top outfielders in several of those categories.
“It’s a great honor and something I definitely don’t take for granted,” Mancini said. “I’m very thankful to be here and receive the award.” (Trezza - mlb.com)
Sept 23, 2019: The Orioles have watched Trey Mancini blossom into one of the most productive hitters in the American League, the O's lineup linchpin and the holder of an outsized role inside the walls of their young clubhouse.
Heading into 2020, Baltimore thinks there is still room for Mancini’s impact to grow, both on the field and off. While the Orioles are preparing to hold exit interviews with all their players in the coming weeks, the conversations have already started with Mancini regarding how he can build off his breakout 2019 season. One of the main topics they’ve stressed is leadership, and their desire for Mancini to expand on the progress he’s made this year in that space. Consider the slugger on board.
“From here on forward, I can take on more of a vocal role,” Mancini said.. “I’m not afraid to be a little more vocal. That’s going to be more the goal going into next year, is to try to develop in that role.”
It’s a position the Orioles have eyeballed Mancini for since the onset of the season, after last year’s regime change and the departure of Adam Jones and several others. The O's opened the year with so few veterans that the 27-year-old Mancini, who was entering just his third big league season, qualified as one of their longest-tenured players.
While Andrew Cashner assumed an authority presence before his July trade to the Red Sox, Mancini is homegrown, under team control through 2023, and has drawn praise throughout the organization for his demeanor, work ethic and makeup. Of course, he also led the Orioles in several major offensive categories before the game against the Blue Jays, including homers (34), doubles (36), slugging (.532) and OPS (.899).
“For me, it’s time,” manager Brandon Hyde said recently. “It’s time to not just let his actions show what kind of player he is, but he can lead guys, too, in different ways. He’s really smart. He’s engaging. He’s fun to be around. Guys really respect him. He has a great attitude. ... As he gets more comfortable being in the big leagues and putting up years like he’s just put up, that will be more natural for him, to pull guys aside and teach along the way as well.”
Mancini noted that he grew into similar roles toward the end of his high school and college careers, though he noted “this is obviously a much bigger stage than that.” He said he hoped to start “having difficult conversations with guys if you really need to” and “step out of your comfort zone and not be afraid to speak up” more in 2020.
“Sometimes you look around and you think, it’s happened quick,” Mancini said. “I was a rookie two years ago and now we have so many guys getting their first taste in the Majors, or guys who haven’t been here as long as I have. I realized recently in September -- we have 36 guys here -- that I have to do that even more and more.”
On the field, the Orioles want Mancini to focus on building on what’s developed into his main offensive strength: driving the ball in the air with authority. That’ll be the focus this offseason, though Mancini isn’t planning the kind of swing overhaul that’s become common in the launch-angle era. His adjustments are more approach-based, related to pitch selection and with an eye toward further slicing the career-low 46.5 percent ground-ball rate he posted this season.
Hyde called the goal getting Mancini in the “mindset of going gap to gap trying to put a 3-iron over the center-field wall” every at-bat.
“Not trying to lift the ball, just getting pitches he can drive,” Hyde said. “Over the course of the season, what you’ve seen with Trey is, he’s getting some experience and you’re starting to see more plate discipline. He’s not chasing the sinker down and in or letting the ball run in on his hands. Doing a better job laying off the slider down and away. He’s put really good swings on balls lately because he’s gotten in hitters’ counts. When you grow as a hitter, you’ll see him hit the ball in the air a lot more with authority.” (J Trezza - MLB.com - Sept 23, 2019)
Oct 17, 2019: Trey Mancini’s exit interview came earlier than most. Weeks before the schedule concluded, he was meeting with Orioles manager Brandon Hyde to discuss how he could build on his breakout 2019 campaign, when Mancini emerged as the face of the franchise, the linchpin of the lineup and one of the more productive hitters in baseball. The goal of these conversations was simple: to brainstorm ways Mancini could be even better. The improvement he spent all summer showcasing made that a priority.
“He had an amazing year,” Hyde said. “He’s done everything for us this year, an All Star-type year, a great player, one of the better years in the American League.”
What went right
By hitting .291/.364/.535 with 35 home runs and 97 RBIs, Mancini set career highs in every major offensive category. He finished as the Orioles’ leader in doubles, homers, RBIs, OBP, SLG, weighted on-base average, weighted runs-created plus, isolated slugging and total bases. He was one of four MLB players -- along with Alex Bregman, Matt Chapman and Trevor Story -- to compile at least 100 runs scored, 35 homers and 35 two-baggers.
In short, it was an elite year. And it was largely different from Mancini’s 2018 campaign, when he slumped to a .242/.299/.416 after his third-place AL Rookie of the Year finish in 2017. In 2019, Mancini lowered his strikeouts, increased his walks and drove the ball more consistently, especially to the opposite field. Twenty-six of Mancini’s homers went to center or right, the most among right-handed hitters in the AL.
“Over the course of the season, you saw Trey getting some experience and more plate discipline,” Hyde said. “When you grow as a hitter, you’ll see him hit the ball in the air a lot more with authority.”
What went wrong
There was the All-Star snub, which devastated Mancini but was less a function of his production than it was the AL’s bounty of deserving outfielders. Related or not, Mancini’s most protracted slump came in the weeks wrapped around the All-Star break, though he hit for enough power to keep his overall numbers afloat. Besides that, he had as consistent an offensive season as any Oriole, and grew into a leadership role within the Baltimore clubhouse.
If there was one knock on Mancini, it was his defense, which has always suffered from the fact that he often plays out of position. Those instances became less frequent towards the end of 2019, when the Orioles began giving Mancini everyday reps at his natural first base while relegating Chris Davis to a reserve role and auditioning several young outfielders at the corner spots. Mancini ended up making a career-high 51 starts at first, along with 87 in right field, five in left and 17 at designated hitter. He started just 40 times at first in 2018 and 35 as a rookie the year prior.
Whether that continues to trend upward remains to be seen. Even if Davis’ role remains reduced, the Orioles will soon need to find opportunities for No. 4 prospect Ryan Mountcastle, who shares much of Mancini’s defensive profile. The presence of Renato Núñez, DJ Stewart, Dwight Smith Jr. and other bat-first corner types probably means Mancini continues to bounce around in 2020, despite what’s best for him.
What’s clear is playing Mancini in the outfield zaps his value considerably. While he rates fairly average at first, Mancini ranks as one of MLB’s worst outfield defenders by Outs Above Average, DRS, UZR and other metrics. He registered a -1.5 defensive WAR in 2019, 10th lowest in MLB.
Mancini finished the season on a tear, so let’s go with his most complete performance from that stretch. It came on September 24 in Toronto, when Mancini’s first career five-hit game paced an 11-4 victory over the Blue Jays. Mancini doubled twice, scored twice and drove in a run, finishing 5-for-5. He was soon named the American League Player of the Week, and he wound up hitting .365/.433/.615 in September.
As the season drew to a close, club officials spoke regularly about how much they expect from Mancini in 2020, when they hope he can assume an even larger clubhouse role and tap into even more power at the plate. The conversation painted Mancini as someone they plan to build around, and perhaps they will.
Might that mean exploring the option of an extension for Mancini? It’s something the Orioles have not yet been willing to do. On the flip side, they are all but certain to gauge his value on the trade market this winter, as they did at last summer’s July 31 deadline. The reason why is obvious: Mancini, who will turn 28 in March, remains under team control through 2023 and profiles as their most valuable chip. He is in line for a sizable raise as a first-time arbitration-eligible player this winter, but even with a projected salary of over $5 million, he still qualifies as an extreme bargain given his 2019 production.
Simply put, given how far the Orioles are from contending, they must decide how Mancini factors into their long-term plans. It’s a question they figure to explore in earnest over the next few months.
“The losses hurt him, he takes it really hard,” Hyde said. “He puts a lot of pressure on himself, and I wish he would just relax a little bit. But it really matters to him if we win or lose, so I give him a ton of credit for sticking with this and [I’m] looking forward to the day when he’s on a winning club.” (J Trezza - MLB.com - Oct 17, 2019)
We first catch up with Joseph Anthony Mancini III -- known as Trey in Baltimore and across MLB -- somewhere outside the warehouse. No, not that one.
We are more than 900 miles away from the red brick of Camden Yards, sweating in the central Florida heat next to two crates stuffed with green peppers. We are 60 winding county road miles east of the Orioles Spring Training complex, an hour south of Mancini’s hometown of Winter Haven, on 35 acres of land lined with live oak and replete with cattle egrets, pecking feverishly at its lawns. “You made it,” he greets, extending a hand. “It is pretty far out.”
The Mancinis have been here since the early 1940s, long before the state turned the neighboring railroad tracks into Highway 17, swelling Zolfo Springs’ population up near 2,000. They came from southern Italy, then down from New England to Tampa, where Trey’s great-grandfather, Antonio, heard from a connection with the American Can Company of some available land in Zolfo Springs.
They make peppers, up to 50,000 pounds per day, and have (in some quantity or another) for nearly a century. Their headquarters for the past seven decades has been here, where they’ve built two warehouses and one 20,000-square-foot processing building on the campus now run by Trey’s uncle, Rick.
Rick is the Mancini Packing Company’s CEO and president, overseeing retail and food service operations of 60 unique products, 70 employees and about $10 million in yearly sales. The Mancinis sell roasted peppers, fried peppers and blanched peppers, sweet peppers, hot peppers, tangy peppers and sliced peppers. They sell them in 7 oz., 12 oz. and 28 oz. jars, distributed to all 50 U.S. states and Canada. They’ve made them, more or less, the same way for almost a century, give or take some natural technological and equipment advancements.
“I grew up on these things -- every meal we had, we had the peppers there,” Trey says later, sitting under framed family photos in Rick’s office. “My mom didn’t even have to make them. You can just eat them out of the jar, and we had jars all over the house.”
Now he’s come back to learn how they got there. His parents brought him to the factory as a child, but Trey hadn’t been back again until this past Christmas. Back again just weeks before his 28th birthday, Mancini is full of newfound interest in his family history. After a breakout 2019 campaign that saw him realize who he was as a player, more curious than ever about where he comes from, and how exactly Mancini became a household name long before he ever reached The Show.
“I wish I would’ve asked more questions,” Trey says. “As I’ve gotten older, I’ve wanted to learn more.” (Trezza - mlb.com - 3/6/2020)
For Trey, the special concession item he contributed on Players Weekend in August 2019 was easiest. He’s always identified as Italian-American, a third-generation member of an immigrant family that grew into a mainstay on kitchen shelves across the country. It was something of a culmination when Mancini peppers lined the specialty dish at Oriole Park’s Roma Sausage concession that weekend, 98 years after Trey’s great-grandfather, Antonio, began roasting them out of a small neighborhood cannery.
“They are -- unbiased -- my favorite peppers in the world,” Trey said.
Today, Mancini’s family story is so common that the hardships immigrants like his relatives faced are often lost to history. Trey’s great grandfather, Antonio, immigrated in 1904 at age 21, from the small city of Turi, near Italy’s Adriatic coast. Southern Italians faced difficult conditions in America at the turn of the 20th century, where they were less than welcome in most communities and faced discrimination and slurs in both the North and the South. Just 13 years earlier, in 1891, 11 Italian-Americans -- acquitted in the killing of the local police chief -- were hanged in New Orleans in one of the largest mass lynchings in U.S. history.
Antonio married Margherita, another Turi immigrant, in 1910. The couple settled in New Britain, Conn., where they opened a small grocery store, a macaroni factory and eventually, the pepper cannery in nearby Southington. The Mancini Packing Company was founded in 1922 and, before long, Antonio, Margherita and their six children worked together to operate it.
Trey’s grandfather, Joseph Anthony Mancini, found the Zolfo Springs site of their farm and operation when demand grew and returned to Florida with another brother, Frank, after serving in World War II. All five Mancini brothers -- Anthony, Frank, Joseph, Daniel and Patrick -- served in and survived the war. Antonio and their sister Lillian handled day-to-day operations while they were away.
“That’s crazy to think about,” Trey Mancini said. “You can never imagine five brothers all serving in a war together now.”
Joseph and Frank managed the factory for 50 years, implementing innovative automation techniques along the way. Joseph had three sons: Daniel, Trey’s father Joseph “Tony” Jr., and Rick, who eventually took the reins. Daniel and Tony became doctors. Trey, Tony Jr.’s son, has blossomed into one of the American League’s best hitters.
“When they first came down they were roasting peppers in charcoal in a 55-gallon drum and they would hold the pepper on a stick over the coals, like a marshmallow,” Rick said.
Things are different now, as Trey is starting to see. He straps on a hairnet and follows Rick to the head of the assembly line, the first stop in a labyrinth of conveyor belts, stainless steel pipes and electrical wires. Peppers are pushed onto the belt and inspected by hand, then discarded if they show significant signs of deficiency. The ones that pass are sent up a vertical belt to a roofed enclosure outside the factory walls and into one of seven cylindrical barrel roasters, which scorch the peppers with 1,500-degree Fahrenheit flames. Trey watches intently as the sound of charring fills the space.
“That’s the coolest part, definitely,” he says. “Especially since roasted is my favorite kind of peppers.”
From there, the peppers head back inside to be de-cored, then de-seeded, winding through various posts on the assembly line. “It’s so cool as it just starts as the whole pepper in the beginning, and after about 10 minutes it’s in the jar and ready to be packed,” Mancini says. “It’s really cool seeing how it goes down the entire assembly line and how it works.” (Trezza - mlb.com - 3/6/2020)
Trey’s mother, Beth, is mostly of Irish ancestry, and as a Notre Dame alum himself, Trey always will root hard for the Irish. But Mancini always has considered himself Italian -- after all, the vowel at the end of his last name stuck out growing up in central Florida. It also marks him as the latest in a rich history of Italians making their mark in MLB, which scholars date back to Tony Lazzeri’s emergence with the Yankees in 1926.
“I’m thinking about going to go back to visit this offseason,” Mancini said. “Might even get Rosetta Stone on my phone to learn some of the language.”
The Orioles hope he’ll do so as one of the game’s top performers of any heritage. That was never guaranteed for Trey who battled defensive questions as a prospect, was blocked positionally by several big-money stars, and who, despite those obstacles, has worked to rise beyond his relatively humble baseball origin station.
Sound familiar? “I didn’t know Trey going into the season last year, and he might be one of the easiest people to coach I’ve ever been around at the big-league level,” O’s manager Brandon Hyde said. “He’s extremely team-oriented. He wants to do what’s best. He has off-the-charts makeup. His mentality is phenomenal. He does everything you ask him to do and he does it well. He gives unbelievable effort day in and day out, and he’s first-class all the way.”
Mancini has been steadfast about his stance on the Orioles rebuild: He wants to see it through. He does not want to go, though as an elite, cost-controllable player approaching his prime, he will qualify as the Orioles’ top trade chip for the foreseeable future. The front office in 2020 speaks glowingly of Mancini, but has not approached him about an extension and remains open the possibility of trade.
He speaks glowingly of Baltimore, the fans that have welcomed him, and of the organization that drafted and developed him. He wants to be part of the next winning team at Camden Yards. He said it in the summer of 2019, the 2019-2020 winter, and the 2020 spring when camp opened. (Trezza - mlb.com - 3/6/2020)
March 8, 2020: One day after Trey Mancini left the team, the Orioles were understandably more interested in expressing concern for their teammate than they were in guessing how Mancini’s departure would affect the lineup. Mancini, a fan favorite and arguably the O’s most consistent player last season, will undergo a “non-baseball medical procedure” sometime next week. The details surrounding the issue are private out of respect for the player, manager Brandon Hyde said, but those in the clubhouse are concerned for their friend.
“Trey’s an enormous part of this team and a huge face for our club and everybody loves him,” Hyde added before Sunday's 5-5 tie against the Yankees. “When there’s a setback, then it hurts to not have him here. We’re just thinking about him and his well-being.”
Mancini had garnered just 12 at-bats this spring. He battled flu-like symptoms for much of that time, and although they alone aren’t indicative of anything more serious, his teammates’ words held a serious note before the Orioles hosted the Yankees.
“He just loves everybody; whether it’s a random fan in the stands or clubhouse staff or the guy hitting behind him, he’s got the same relationship with everybody,” starter Alex Cobb said. “He treats everybody so well, so to see him have to go through what he’s going through, it’s heartbreaking. But it gives us all an opportunity to show how much we love him, and to rally around him and be there for him during this.”
Mancini, a 27-year-old is fresh off a 97-RBI, 35-homer season -- his third with the O’s -- during which he slashed .291/.364/.535. That, coupled with the intangibles he brings to the team, saw Mancini named the team’s Most Valuable Oriole last season, and most indispensable player for 2020.
“It’s a huge loss,” veteran first baseman Chris Davis said. “I think Trey was pretty much our most consistent player last year, and you’re not going to replace a guy like that.”
For now, the O’s are understandably not concerned about what will happen on the field, with Hyde reporting the club had had no discussions about moving forward should Mancini miss an extended period of time. Per Hyde, Mancini will have “further tests done,” but could start the season on the injured list depending on what those tests reveal. Whatever the case, Mancini has the full support and attention of the Orioles, who have reached out to their star and friend.
“We’ve been keeping in constant contact with Trey, and sometimes, things happen that make you open your eyes a little bit from what’s important,” Hyde said.
“There’s no doubt in my mind, the competitor that he is, that he’s going to get through this with no problem,” Cobb added. “It’s going to be difficult, but he’s going to get through this and he’s going to come back stronger, and with definitely a new perspective on life and an appreciation of the game that he probably didn’t have before.”
Trey texted: I want to express my heartfelt gratitude to everyone for their kind sentiments and well wishes. It further drives home the fact that I am surrounded by the best family, friends/teammates, and fans that I could ever ask for. Once there is more clarity, I will be sure to keep everyone updated over the next few days. I look forward to a healthy recovery and being back on the field soon! (D Klemish - MLB.com - March 8, 2020)
April 28, 2020: Trey revealed he has Stage III Colon cancer. Making his first lengthy public comments since undergoing surgery to remove a malignant tumor in his colon on March 12, Orioles star Trey Mancini published an essay to The Players' Tribune detailing his fight with Stage 3 colon cancer, chronicling the events that led to his diagnosis and thanking friends, fans and teammates for the support he's received during this trying time.
In the essay, titled "I Am So Lucky," Mancini reveals he recently started a six-month prescription of chemotherapy treatment that would sideline him for the entire 2020 regular season regardless of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic.
"If baseball returns in 2020, it will probably be without me," he wrote.
Feeling sluggish and hampered by flu-like symptoms early in Spring Training, Mancini wrote that multiple blood tests revealed he had low iron levels. Given his age and lack of other health problems, Mancini said doctors told him he probably had either celiac disease (an immune disease of the small intestine) or a stomach ulcer. Though there was a family history of colon cancer -- Mancini's father, Tony, was diagnosed with Stage 2 colon cancer in 2011 at age 58 -- Mancini said he considered it only "a remote possibility" at the time.
"We just thought I was way too young for me to have it," Mancini wrote. "It was my last concern. I was only 28. No way I had that."
But that is exactly what Mancini had. He underwent an endoscopy and a colonoscopy, which revealed a malignant tumor in his colon. Six days after the diagnosis, Mancini had the tumor surgically removed. This was March 12, the same day Spring Training was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.
A few days prior, Mancini, who hadn't played in more than a week, told his teammates what he was facing. Mancini began chemotherapy on April 13, almost exactly a month after the operation.
Mancini drives to a Baltimore hospital alone, due to safety precautions necessitated by the coronavirus pandemic, twice each month for a round. Mancini said he is scheduled for 12 treatments over the next six months, which would put his last treatment in late September.
Mancini expressed optimism that he will be able to return to the field sometime after that.
"I have no doubt that, even when I'm doing chemo, I can work out and do some things," Mancini wrote. "So, whenever the time comes for me to come back to baseball, I'll be ready. But I just want to make sure that I am physically fine before I go out there and start trying to perform again at a Major League level."
Mancini also thanked the Orioles' medical staff, and he wrote of the many who've reached out since news of his situation broke, including Hall of Famer Brooks Robinson and 13-year-old Orioles superfan Mo Gaba, whose ongoing battles with cancer Mancini has supported for years.
"The 13-year-old kid with cancer calling me to make sure I'm OK? It blew me away," Mancini wrote. "I told Mo I was going to be fine. And then I told him we'd hang out again soon. That's a promise I fully intend to keep."
Sometimes, Mancini admitted, he has "bad days," where he "asks 'Why me?' Why now?'" But he makes more effort in the essay to emphasize how he's strove to maintain a positive outlook, despite the circumstances.
"I've got other things to worry about right now, though, and I know that," he wrote. "But still, every once in a while, I catch myself thinking ahead -- to when chemo is over, to when they remove my port, to when I can start going full-speed again. And I already can't wait for Spring Training."
As the essay made rounds on social media, several of Mancini's teammates made effort to promote it.
Take a few minutes and read this. Trey is an incredible teammate and player but even more so an incredible guy. Even through one of the most challenging things, he sees himself as the lucky one. We are the lucky ones to have people like him around us! https://twitter.com/TreyMancini/status/1255106275635011584 …
Reliever Shawn Armstrong called Mancini "a brother, a teammate and a role model." (J Trezza - MLB.com - April 28, 2020)
May 10, 2020: ESPN producer Patrick Truby asked on Twitter: Who is the “coolest” person in baseball? That’s the sort of question during these sad days without live Major League Baseball that gets our engines motoring over here. That’ll continue to fill the days.
So, today, we take a look at each team’s “coolest” player. That is, of course, a vague concept, “cooler,” so we’ll just give you our definition of it: When an 8-year-old is pretending to be his favorite player on his favorite team out on the diamond, which player is he pretending to be? That’s how we’ll define it. And here are our picks.
Orioles: Trey Mancini, OF -- I’m not sure there’s anyone more impressive in baseball than Trey Mancini right now. (Will Leitch)
Sept 22, 2020: For Trey Mancini, the hard part is over.
Mancini this week completed the last of his prescribed chemotherapy treatments for Stage 3 colon cancer, which the Orioles' slugger had been undergoing at Johns Hopkins University Hospital bimonthly since mid-April. Mancini’s girlfriend, Sara Perlman, announced the news on Twitter.
The Orioles then sent Mancini a signed team photo with congratulatory messages to mark the achievement, posting Mancini’s reaction to opening the gift to their social platforms. The team is pictured in the photo wearing #F16HT T-shirts, which they’ve worn all season in support of Mancini.
The Orioles have worked with Mancini, 28, and the Colorectal Cancer Alliance since his diagnosis in mid-March to build awareness and advocate for yearly physicals and early screening.
“It’s going to take me a while to read all these, but this is incredible,” Mancini said in a video. “I’m speechless right now.”
On social media, support also flowed in from Mancini’s teammates, elsewhere across the baseball world and beyond:
Throughout his cancer fight, Mancini has said he is determined to return to the field in 2021. Whether that happens or not remains unclear, and it could be affected by factors related to the COVID-19 pandemic, given how Mancini’s condition puts him at high risk for the virus. Mancini was the O’s top run-producer in 2019, hitting a career-high 35 homers and batting .291 with an .899 OPS. He would return to a team that’s watched Anthony Santander and Ryan Mountcastle emerge this year as impact corner types, playing mostly right and left field, and also first base.
“So excited for Trey Mancini,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “He’s someone we care about immensely, and it’s so great to hear how well he’s doing. I can’t wait to see him soon.” (J Trezza - MLB.com - Sept 22, 2020)
- Jan 10, 2020: Mancini and the Orioles avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year deal worth $4.75 million.