Mancini grew up as neighbors with future MLB 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. Then 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, Baseball America 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 third 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 grandfather 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. 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.
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.” (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 and one of the more productive hitters in baseball.
“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 big rookie year 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.
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. (J Trezza - MLB.com - Oct 17, 2019)
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 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. (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 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 2 colon cancer. Making his first lengthy public comments since undergoing surgery to remove a malignant tumor in his colon on March 12, Mancini published an essay to The Players' Tribune, detailing his fight with 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 in Spring Training, Mancini wrote that 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. Mancini's father, Tony, was diagnosed with Stage 2 colon cancer in 2011 at age 58. Though there was a family history of colon cancer, 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 Brooks Robinson and 13-year-old Orioles super-fan 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." (Editor's note: Mo Gaba died July 28, 2020. And Mancini attended his socially distanced funeral.)
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.
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 … (J Trezza - MLB.com - April 28, 2020)
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)
Nov 5, 2020: Trey Mancini has returned to the cage.
A few days after Orioles general manager Mike Elias said that Mancini had resumed “baseball-ish activities,” the O’s slugger posted a video of himself taking batting practice. Mancini is taking full swings against front-toss flips in the video, which was posted to his Instagram story.
The video is captioned: “We’re back.”
It is the first public evidence of Mancini swinging a bat since being diagnosed with Stage III colon cancer in March. He completed the last of 12 prescribed chemotherapy treatments in September.
“He’s slowly getting into baseball-ish type activities and it’s been incredible,” Elias said last week. “We’ve all got our fingers crossed. I think it’s going as well as it possibly could have gone since we got the horrible news in March. I think any of us would have traded anything to get to November and be where we’re at with him right now. He’s getting his strength back.”
Since Mancini had a malignant tumor removed from his colon in March, both he and the Orioles have consistently expressed confidence he would return to the field in 2021. The ongoing coronavirus pandemic complicates those goals, given that Mancini is considered immunocompromised. But his recovery has gone according to plan otherwise, with no setbacks and Mancini receiving support from figures throughout baseball and the state of Maryland. Mancini has also become an advocate for early colorectal cancer awareness, telling his story on various platforms to promote early screenings.
Mancini, 28, emerged as one of the American League’s top sluggers in 2019, hitting .291 with 35 homers, 97 RBIs and an .899 OPS. (J Trezza - MLB.com - Nov 5, 2020)
Feb 9, 2021: It had all the makings of an emotional moment. Picture it: Sidelined by colon cancer for almost a year, Trey Mancini returning to the Orioles' clubhouse this spring to a hero's welcome, mobbed by teammates and staffers thrilled to celebrate their star slugger’s recovery and return to the field.
It’s a triumphant scene, and it still might happen. But Mancini has already eliminated some of the suspense, by arriving in Sarasota, Fla., more than a week before pitchers and catchers report to camp. Orioles position players aren’t required to report until Feb. 21, with the first full-squad workout scheduled for Feb. 22.
Mancini is already there.
“I decided to come a little early since I had an extended amount of time off last year and wanted to get the ball rolling a little early,” Mancini said, speaking on SiriusXM’s MLB Network Radio. “I feel great and I’m excited to be back.”
Diagnosed with Stage 3 colon cancer in March 2020, Mancini, then 27, had a malignant tumor surgically removed from his colon on the morning of March 13. Only a few hours later, Spring Training was shut down due to the emerging COVID-19 threat. In five days time, Mancini would learn he’d require chemotherapy, receiving the news on his 28th birthday. He spent the ensuing months recovering against the backdrop of a global pandemic.
In the time since, few people outside of cleaning crews have entered the Orioles' spring complex. Mancini described something akin to returning to a time capsule, where remnants of a past reality remain plain to see. There are whiteboards lining some hallways, for example, still sporting never-erased messages almost a year old. “Everything is kind of as it was last March,” Mancini said. “So it’s a little eerie.” Mancini had already emerged as the new, homegrown face of the franchise, having broken out to hit .291 with 35 home runs and an .899 OPS for the rebuilding O’s in 2019. He had been thrust into an early leadership position in the clubhouse and taken it in stride, and he was seemingly entering his prime on the field. Then cancer wiped out his entire age-28 season. Mancini completed six months of chemo and vowed publicly to return fully healthy in 2021. He was declared cancer free in November and remains so today.
“I was able to get started [training this winter] early, which was good, because I definitely had some ground to make up,” Mancini said. “I had to kind of retrain myself in a few of the intricacies of my swing. By the time December rolled around, I was right where I always am and doing my normal offseason progression.”
Recounting that initial session back in the batting cage, Mancini added: “It was definitely the most excited I’ve ever been to hit in the cage. That first day, I was swinging like my hair was on fire.”
Mancini took on-field batting practice for the first time since his diagnosis. He said he hasn’t lost his power stroke.“The wind was blowing out to left,” Mancini said. “I got one pretty early.”
Asked what he missed most about baseball during his time away, Mancini’s answer was simple. He’s making up for lost time already.
“Honestly, just being in a clubhouse with the guys. It was so weird not going to the field every day, being around a team and having the camaraderie,” Mancini said. “I just miss being there every day.” (J Trezza - MLB.com - Feb 9, 2021)
Inside Mancini's inspiring return to baseball
March 30, 2021: Nearly a year to the day before Trey Mancini’s emotional return to the field in February, his parents, Tony and Beth, made the two-hour drive from their Winter Haven, Fla., home south to Sarasota, where the Orioles convene for Spring Training, in a state of shock.
They’d just received a call from Trey’s girlfriend, Sara Perlman, who handed the phone to a doctor to relay disquieting news: The mysterious fatigue spelling Trey all spring wasn’t the result of a gluten intolerance, like originally hoped. The colonoscopy Mancini underwent that morning revealed a malignant tumor. Mancini had been feeling sluggish for weeks, and the family weren’t strangers to colon cancer, which Tony had beaten years earlier at age 58. But Beth decided that morning to stay home in part because the odds of such a grave revelation were so remote. A malignant tumor? It was an outcome nobody expected, not for an otherwise healthy professional athlete not two weeks shy of his 28th birthday.
From there, Beth remembers, “Everything happened very quickly.” She phoned Tony, who is a physician, the news, pulling him out of a meeting. From the car they dialed their eldest daughter, Katie, then alerted their younger daughter, Meredith, at work in New York City. They pulled into the parking lot at the Orioles’ spring facility anxious and somber, then huddled with Trey, O’s manager Brandon Hyde, GM Mike Elias and members of the team training staff in Hyde’s office, their world entirely upended.
“Up until that point, most of my biggest problems or worries were all baseball related,” Trey Mancini said later. “Going through a slump was maybe the worst thing I had gone through, personally, and I'm very lucky to have said that at that point. I’d never been through anything like this with me or a family member. So it definitely put a lot in perspective.”
In two days’ time, the Mancinis were meeting with surgeons at Johns Hopkins University Hospital in Baltimore. Trey’s operation occurred four days later, on March 12, the day Major League Baseball shut down Spring Training due to the coronavirus pandemic. The diagnosis came six days after that, on March 18, his 28th birthday: Stage 3 colon cancer, necessary chemotherapy, and of course, no baseball. He wouldn’t spend 2020 on the field, even if the sport did return. He’d spend it fighting for his life. "The whole time I just wanted to be healthy long-term and live a long life." (Courtesy Mancini family) “There were times early on when I wasn’t entirely sure I’d be playing baseball again,” Mancini said. “I'd be lying if I'd say that was the first thing that came to mind. The whole time I just wanted to be healthy long-term and live a long life. And baseball definitely was on the back burner when I was going through all that.”
Throughout the process, Mancini vowed to return healthy by Opening Day 2021, repeatedly saying he wouldn’t consider his comeback complete until the regular season commenced. Now it’s officially arrived. Cancer free for more than five months, Mancini is expected in the Orioles lineup, starting at first base when they open their 2021 season Thursday in Boston. It will mark a triumphant end to a yearlong battle that tested his resolve, reshaped the Orioles’ rebuilding plans and inspired many both inside the game of baseball and out.
This is the inside story Mancini’s year away, and how he got back on the field.
On the scariest day of the most difficult year of Trey Mancini’s life, chemotherapy threw him a curveball.
This was late June 2020, more than three months after he was diagnosed with Stage 3 colon cancer, and halfway through the six-month chemotherapy prescription Mancini would ultimately complete. Nobody gets used to chemo, that’s not the implication here. But by this point, the O’s slugger was familiar enough with the process to discern patterns in what it did to his body, how he’d react and recover. He could forecast them with a calendar. Every two weeks, he’d drive (mostly alone, due to COVID-19 restrictions) from the Washington, D.C., apartment he shared with Perlman, to Hopkins for 4 1/2-hour chemo sessions. The week before would be manageable. The five or so days after, hardly tolerable.
On the worst days, Mancini described chemotherapy as feeling hungover, miserable in his own skin, but with his head clear. He mostly slept, able to put down only the slightest bit of the blandest food. When the veil cleared, Mancini could muster enough strength to sneak in a home workout, or play with their new puppy, or binge watch “The Wire.” Then the cycle repeated itself again. This was how the previous five treatments had gone. They were grueling but seemed to be working. There was a chance, his doctors said, this treatment could be the last he’d need. But then doctors administered the drug Oxaliplatin, and Mancini’s body did not respond well. His face flushed. His throat began to close. Doctors treated the allergic reaction, then called Perlman, who worked the past two seasons as the O’s sideline reporter for MASN before leaving for NBC Sports.
“That was really scary, because that was the first time something was going wrong during chemo,” Perlman said. “We were hoping he’d only have to do three months. Then the doctors suggested another three months. Which, when you’re going through it, might as well feel like another two years.” Every two weeks, Mancini went through 4 1/2-hour chemo sessions. (Courtesy Mancini family)The following treatment, doctors used Oxaliplatin again, hoping Mancini’s body would react differently. It did not, and the allergic reaction resurfaced. A period of re-evaluation followed, with Mancini, his family and doctors working together to map out new treatment plans and timelines. This was right around the time the Orioles were reconvening for Summer Camp, sporting #F16HT shirts to support Mancini’s recovery from afar. The 2020 season would go on after all. It would just go on without him.
“We’re thinking about him constantly,” manager Brandon Hyde said at the time. “To not have him in the lineup, to not have him around, is something that is not easy.”
Upon hearing the news of his diagnosis, the Orioles community embraced Mancini to the fullest. One of the first calls he received was from Brooks Robinson. Another came from Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, himself a cancer survivor, phoned Mancini personally and championed him on social media. Support poured in from across the baseball world, and Mancini remained engaged socially with his teammates and coaches through texts and group chats when able.
“It meant the world to me, the support I got from my teammates, and all the fans here,” Mancini said. “The fans in Baltimore have always been so amazing at rallying behind their players. It didn't surprise me in the slightest bit, the support I got. It meant so much and really helped me get through.”
But after the initial wave, Mancini spoke at least as much to fellow colon cancer survivors, advocacy groups, and medical professionals. The #F16HT shirts spawned from Mancini’s desire to promote colorectal cancer awareness. Those efforts raised more than $80,000 for the Colorectal Cancer Alliance, which Mancini officially partnered with in June and plans to incorporate into the work of his new foundation.
During and after his recovery, Mancini took every public opportunity he could to stress the importance of early colorectal cancer screening, noting how, if he weren’t a professional athlete with regular access to elite medical care, his may not have been detected until too late. He’s agreed to wave after wave of media requests, knowing the potential his story had to touch millions.
“On average, patients diagnosed under the age of 50 go to two or three doctors before they are diagnosed. Then they get diagnosed at a later stage. That’s what is scary,” said Michael Sapienza, CEO of the Colorectal Cancer Alliance. “Trey has become a spokesperson for young people. What does it mean for them? Men have a harder time talking about it given the taboo nature of the disease.”
Said Mancini: “A lot of people helped me out through my journey. Now, being able to inspire and help other people is what I see as returning the favor and something I want to do.” Mancini hopes to forge similar relationships to the one that’s blossomed with George Davis, a 64-year-old, two-time cancer survivor who regularly mentors new Hopkins patients. Hospital officials provided Davis’ contact info after Mancini’s surgery, during the week between surgery and chemo. Those were anxious, difficult days, sequestered in Perlman’s D.C. apartment as the pandemic took hold. Mancini dialed the number, wondering what to expect.
“I knew he’d get through it fairly well, but I knew there'd be problems," Davis said. And so we talked about those things. From our very first conversation, I was amazed and impressed with Trey’s acceptance of what he had, his will to fight and get back on the ballfield. But also, concurrently, he had this strong desire to give thanks and to give back in any way he could.”
At least once per week throughout the summer, Mancini and Davis spoke by phone. They “talked a little bit about cancer, a little bit about survivorship, a little about faith,” Davis said. Their shared experience bonded them. Soon, Davis got to know Perlman, and Beth and Tony Mancini, too. Behind closed doors, Trey confided in Davis.
By the time Mancini’s final chemotherapy treatment came around in September, his physician’s assistant and Davis devised a plan. COVID restrictions prohibited Davis from going inside the hospital … but couldn’t legislate the parking lot grounds. He surprised Mancini with balloons and a bear hug. It was the first time they’d met in person.
“It's the worst news you can ever get when you get diagnosed with cancer, but there's a lot of people you're gonna meet along the way and people in your life that help you get through those really tough times,” Mancini said. And a lot of people go on to live normal lives.”
The few weeks after his diagnosis were a blur. They were also, Mancini and Perlman both remember, the toughest: packed with visits from nurses, treatment tutorials and trepidatious trips to Hopkins. They became extremely COVID-conscious, knowing Mancini was immuno-compromised. He had to relearn what to eat, how to drink, when to sleep. It was a crash course in what chemo brings and how to beat it.
“I always joke we became like an amorphous blob, and I don’t know how else to put it because Trey and I were really in unison trying to make this work the best way we could,” Perlman said. "We literally spent every waking minute, hour and day together, because we just had to be so careful.”
Perlman and Mancini hadn’t been dating very long, merely six months or so into a relationship that began shortly after the 2019 season. Suddenly they weren’t just living together; she became his caretaker. Complicating things further was the pandemic, which made it extremely difficult, and dangerous for Mancini, for his immediate family to visit. The amorphous blob resolved to soldier on together.
“The hardest part was watching someone you really love . . . the last thing you want to do is watch them feel like crap,” Perlman said.
Beth, Katie and Meredith were able to visit once, in late June. Dealing with her son’s situation from afar, Beth said that knowing Perlman was there to help him was “the only peace I had during that time.”
The couple searched for their own peace by prioritizing their mental health. They read books about the power of positive thinking. They made house rules: no wallowing. “We were never negative on the same day,” Perlman said.
On bad days, Perlman’s message was simple: “You’re going to get through this.” And he did. When the chemo fog cleared, Mancini would build up the strength to order from their favorite takeout joint or flip on an Orioles game. On these nights, Mancini angled himself in front of the television, grabbed a bat or some similarly shaped household item and envisioned batting against the pitcher on the screen. Sometimes, something is everything.
“I got to watch a lot of baseball last year, definitely more than I ever have,” Mancini said. “Being in the locker room was really what I missed. It was really weird not being part of the team and being away from everybody.”
The end of summer brought the finish line, as it often does in baseball. For Mancini, it came on Sept. 21 in the Hopkins parking lot, smile as wide as the facemask covering it, balloons in hand. Mancini completed his remaining chemotherapy sessions without issue. He’d seen his world shattered by cancer and eradicated it from his system in six months. Then he re-emerged into a changed world on a two-pronged mission: to use his story to help others and get himself back on the field.
Around Halloween, Mancini and Perlman left D.C. for Nashville, Tenn., where Mancini owns a home. There, he linked up with the trainers at Chadwick’s Fitness, an offseason strength and conditioning facility in nearby Franklin that’s become a hotbed for big league talent in recent years. This winter, that talent included Blue Jays starter Steven Matz, Mets catcher James McCann, Pirates infielder Adam Frazier and Tigers outfielder Christin Stewart. “I was kind of surprised almost, to see him in such great shape,” Matz said.
Matz was speaking from experience. His own personal scare with colon cancer came in 2014, when his mother, Lori, was diagnosed during Spring Training. Like Mancini, Lori Matz’s cancer had spread to her lymph nodes by time of detection, requiring surgery and chemotherapy. She’s since recovered fully. Matz called it “extremely inspiring to see someone at his age getting a diagnosis like that and bouncing back in a year.”
“He was always so positive and just so nice,” Matz said. “When you asked him how he's doing, he always thanked you for caring and asking. When I shared the stuff about my mom, he was always so appreciative of that. You could just tell he was so glad to be back.”
He was cleared to report to Spring Training without restriction, further positioning him to return healthy by Opening Day.
Mancini had cleared enough hurdles to start their Grapefruit League opener against the Pirates, to find himself penciled into the No. 2 spot in Hyde’s lineup. Publicly, Mancini said he felt his comeback wouldn’t be complete until Opening Day, until the games counted, and this was merely an exhibition. But few others saw it that way, and privately, he spent that morning replaying the past year in his mind.
“When I pulled into the parking lot, it was emotional,” Beth said. “It’s emotional every year when we pull into the parking lot. But this year, it was exceptionally emotional.” Watching from behind the third-base dugout, Beth, Tony and four close relatives were soon part of a standing ovation Mancini received prior to his first at-bat from the limited capacity Ed Smith Stadium crowd and both dugouts. He tipped his cap, soaked it in ... and promptly singled, rocketing his first hit in more than a year into center off Chad Kuhl. Footage of the ovation went viral, even though the game wasn’t televised. Hyde called it a “goosebumps moment.” Mancini called it “one of my favorite moments of my baseball career.”
“It definitely felt like a moment where we came full circle,” Mancini said. “I thought more about everything that happened today than I have in a long time. I’ve mostly tried to move on, in a lot of ways. But I really tried to appreciate and cherish today.”
The milestones kept coming. His first spring homer came March 19, off Pittsburgh righty Edgar Santana. His first opposite-field shot arrived three games later. He played in consecutive games, at first base and DH, his body passing every test of endurance and durability. He re-found his swing and hit .325 over his first 40 spring at bats. “He’s just a very, very determined person,” Beth said. “I don't think it really hit me, if you want to know the truth, until this March. I don't know if I was going on adrenaline last year, but the anniversary of everything drove it home. What we went through, it's been emotional looking back at it.”
Said Hyde: “Trey is definitely meeting my expectations. My expectations are: I hope he feels good every day. He’s in a great place physically and mentally. It will be a daily conversation between me and him about whether he’s ready to go the next day. But every day I’ve asked him, he is. That’s going to continue for the rest of the season.”
His impact figures to transcend baseball, given Mancini’s platform, story, determination and resilience. His next two milestones will mark the biggest in a grueling, demoralizing, isolating, uplifting and triumphant year full of them: Opening Day, April 1 at Fenway Park, and the April 8 home opener in Baltimore.
He will dig into the batter’s box having beaten cancer.
“I'm very proud of where I am right now.” Mancini said. “I’m hoping to take a lot of that perspective into this year. I really think I’m going to appreciate being able to play Major League Baseball every single day.” (J Trezza - MLB.com - March 30, 2021)
Before the Orioles 2021 home opening game, it had been 18 1/2 months since fans and Trey had stepped foot in Oriole Park at Camden Yards, for different and well-documented reasons.
They missed each other. Mancini received a hero’s welcome from the limited capacity crowd of 10,150 during his emotional return to the ballpark, finishing 1-for-4 with a run scored in his first home game since beating Stage 3 colon cancer. Prior to this game, Mancini’s last regular-season home game was on Sept. 21, 2019, the day fans were last allowed in the park. “Even though it was 25% capacity, it felt like a full stadium out there,” Mancini said. “It was amazing. It was nothing short of what I expected. We have the best fans in baseball here, and no matter what, they love us. That meant the world to me.”
Ovations are becoming the norm for Mancini, ever since he made his return to the field in the 2021 spring in Sarasota, Fla. The Red Sox made a special effort to acknowledge him on Opening Day at Fenway Park, with manager Alex Cora saying that weekend that Mancini already deserved Comeback Player of the Year honors. The Yankees also publicly welcomed Mancini back before the start of the second series of the season, in the Bronx.
But at the 2021 home opener in Baltimore, its reception was by far the largest yet. Running out on a miniature orange carpet from the dugout as part of the club’s revamped opening ceremonies, Mancini received a long ovation as emcee Rob Long bellowed “Welcome home!” Mancini then received another ovation prior to his first at-bat, tipping his cap to the crowd and acknowledging Boston's Eduardo Rodriguez, who also missed the 2020 season, due to a heart condition. (Trezza - mlb.com - 4/8/2021)
For Trey, one of the most challenging days during his battle with stage III colon cancer came in late August 2020, as he neared the end of his six-month chemotherapy treatment. While his fight continued, the fight of another talented young celebrity ended, to the shock and despair of fans around the world.
Chadwick Boseman burst onto the screen in 2013, starring in the biographical film 42 as Hall of Famer and civil rights icon Jackie Robinson, who changed the game of baseball forever when he broke the color barrier in 1947. Boseman’s portrayal of Marvel superhero T'Challa in Black Panther received widespread acclaim and was celebrated as a significant achievement in Black culture.
While his celebrity skyrocketed, Boseman was quietly in the fight for his life. The beloved actor had been waging a four-year battle with an invisible enemy since his stage III colon cancer diagnosis in 2016. Even as the disease progressed to stage IV, Boseman kept his diagnosis private, and continued to act, receiving chemotherapy and undergoing numerous surgeries. It wasn’t until August 28, 2020, when his family confirmed his passing, that fans learned of Boseman’s courageous battle with the deadly disease.
Although he’d never met Boseman, news of the actor’s passing hit close to home for Mancini, who was struck by the dramatic differences of their outcomes despite the similarities of their diagnoses. “That was a really difficult day,” he shared. “You always want to be positive and think that you’re going to be okay, but you realize that the disease does not discriminate against anybody and it’s a hard fight. That day definitely stands out as a tough day for me and I’m sure for everybody else who’s had [colon cancer].”
Prior to his own diagnosis in March 2020, Mancini, like Boseman, had recently seen his career surge to new heights. He was coming off a career year in 2019, in which he was voted the winner of the Louis M. Hatter Most Valuable Oriole Award by members of the local media after leading the club in several offensive categories while notching career-bests in hits (175), doubles (38), home runs (35), runs scored (106), RBI (97), and walks (63). He was named the AL Player of the Week for the period of September 16-22, his first career Player of the Week award. He was also named the Orioles Heart and Hustle Award winner and had become the de facto leader of the team in only his third full season.
The sky appeared to be the limit for the then-27-year-old Mancini when he arrived at Ed Smith Stadium in February 2020 for Spring Training. He was entering the prime of his career and had enjoyed an eventful offseason. In December 2019, he partnered with BMORE Around Town and country duo LoCash to host the Purple Tailgate to support Orioles and Ravens superfan Mo Gaba during his fourth battle with cancer. A week before heading down to Sarasota, he hit the road on the Birdland Caravan, bringing the Oriole Park experience directly to fans throughout the region. (Davis - Birdland Insider - 7/12/2021)
As Spring Training 2020 camp got underway, Mancini realized that something felt different. He was well rested and should have been bursting with energy, but he felt more tired than usual after workouts. With no other symptoms that would have set off any alarms, he assumed his fatigue was just an inevitable byproduct of his age; he was closer to 30 than 25 and had played in at least 147 games in each of the last three seasons.
“Looking back, I really didn’t think it was anything outlandish or crazy at all,” Mancini said. “I thought it was [because I was] getting a little older. I’m still kind of young, but I’m not 21 anymore. Maybe I’m getting a little more tired when I’m taking 10 swings in the batting cage. I felt a little more lethargic.”
Following a routine physical examination and some blood work, doctors discovered that Mancini’s iron levels were low. A follow-up test revealed that they had dropped even lower. Still, he thought, the worst-case scenario was either celiac disease or a stomach ulcer. But on March 6, doctors confirmed what no one had initially suspected: Mancini had stage III colon cancer.
On March 12, 2020, the Orioles were scheduled to travel to Fort Myers for a Spring Training matchup against the Minnesota Twins. Mancini was scheduled for surgery to have a malignant tumor removed from his colon, 10 days after playing in what turned out to be his final baseball game of the year. Mancini’s surgery went as planned. The Spring Training contest between the Orioles and Twins did not.
“My surgery took an hour and a half,” shared Mancini. “In the middle of that hour-and-a-half span, Spring Training had gotten shut down. When I went in to get the surgery done, everyone was more aware of [coronavirus], but we didn’t know to what degree until the middle of my surgery. I think the night before was when the NBA game between the Thunder and the [Jazz] had gotten cancelled, so we knew there was a chance that the same was going to happen with baseball. It was just a surreal thing to wake up to.”
Despite the successful removal of the tumor, Mancini still had a long, difficult road ahead of him. He would need to undergo a six-month course of chemotherapy treatment while the healthcare industry grappled with a once-in-a-century pandemic, meaning he’d be going into the hospital alone. He would surely miss the entire regular season (if one even happened), the first time since he was four years old that he wouldn’t play baseball as part of a team. 2020 was a difficult year for everyone, and few people faced more challenges than Mancini. But if you spoke with him, you wouldn’t know it.
Maybe it’s because he felt that a positive attitude was the only way to approach the fight of a lifetime. Maybe it’s because that’s just who he is. Upon learning of his cancer diagnosis, Mancini penned an article in The Players’ Tribune entitled, “I Am So Lucky,” focusing not on the bad news, but instead choosing to recount the many ways in which things could be worse.
“The best way to go about it is to have a positive mindset,” he shared. “Things could have been much worse if I didn’t have that blood test to say that my hemoglobin was way down and hematocrit was low, everything was just crazy low, so we knew something was going on. So, I’m lucky that the physical said that something was wrong and then I went in and I was lucky that it was treatable, and it could be removed during surgery. Obviously, having to do chemotherapy after [the surgery] wasn’t ideal and not the news I was hoping for. I was obviously hoping that I had stage II, but again, it could have been stage IV when I got diagnosed. I really did luck out in that sense. I really didn’t have any side effects. I wouldn’t have known for a while that I had colon cancer.” (Davis - Birdland Insider - 7/12/2021)
Maybe it’s because of his friend, Mo Gaba, whose positivity never wavered as he fought his own battles with cancer, and whose smile and infectious laugh lit up every room. The same Mo Gaba who helped lift Mancini out of a slump in 2019, and who surprised his friend on the field later that year when Mancini was honored as the Most Valuable Oriole. Mo Gaba, the 14-year-old Orioles and Ravens superfan who was inducted into the Orioles Hall of Fame in 2020, who became the first person in history to announce an NFL draft pick written in Braille in 2019, and who was beloved by listeners of sports radio in Baltimore and across the country. Mo Gaba, whose lifelong fight with cancer ended on July 28, 2020, but whose legacy as one of the most iconic figures in Baltimore sports history will live on.
Mo Gaba, who was the first person to call Mancini after his surgery that day in early March. “He really helped me out and he helped me stay positive throughout a lot of my treatments. Even before I was diagnosed with cancer, I was in awe of the way he handled everything that we went through,” shared Mancini, who still thinks about his friend Mo every day. “After my surgery was over, he was the first person to call me, and he was really concerned at how I was doing. That’s just Mo, being himself and worrying about others. He never once was concerned about himself. Just an amazing kid.”
Despite all the positivity and all the support in the world, cancer is still a formidable foe. There were good days, bad days, and worse days.
“I had to be public about what I was going through because I missed the season,” Mancini said. “But Sara is the only one who really saw me every day during chemotherapy. I’m not going to lie, there were some days where it was just really tough on me. I mostly wouldn’t eat from the day I got treatment on a Monday until that Thursday. I looked weak. I looked really pale.
"Luckily, I’d bounce back by the weekend. And on top of it, we had a puppy that we got in April. The puppy and I always seemed to be sick at the same time. Sara had double duty with the two of us. She learned how to take out my port when it was time for my take-home drip to come out. She had to bathe me for those couple days because I couldn’t get in the shower and couldn’t get any of the take-home stuff wet. She saw me a lot weaker than anybody’s ever seen me before. She just was amazing throughout the whole thing. She was so strong.” (Davis - Birdland Insider - 7/12/2021)
“I love baseball.” It was a common refrain in Mancini’s The Players’ Tribune article last April. After completing his chemotherapy treatments in September 2020 and being officially declared cancer-free in November, it didn’t take him long to set his sights to the future and get back to playing the game he loves.
From doing some light cardio and weight-training workouts between chemotherapy treatments to performing improvised squats with his and Sara’s puppy, Olympia, Mancini made sure he maintained some of his strength and athleticism in anticipation of gearing up for the 2021 season. Prior to reporting to Spring Training, he had essentially been preparing as he would have in a normal offseason, one not disrupted by the twin crises of his bout with colon cancer and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“Baseball definitely took a back seat until I finished with chemotherapy, then all my focus shifted back [to it]. When you’re going through that, baseball is the last thing on your mind. You just want to get healthy and you think about wanting to live a long life. You just go into fight mode and power through during that time,” shared Mancini.
At the midway point of the 2021 regular season, baseball is once again front and center for Mancini, who has slashed .256/.331/.460 with 16 home runs, 18 doubles, and 55 RBI in 86 games since returning to the lineup for the O’s. Statistically, it hasn’t been the best season of his career, but it’s far and away been the most impressive after the challenges he faced in 2020, and it’s been filled with special moments.
When he made his return to Oriole Park at Camden Yards on April 8, he received a thundering ovation from the Birdland faithful. In July, the Orioles welcomed Dr. Nilofer Azad (Nee–low–fer Ah-Zahd), professor of oncology and leader of the Colorectal Cancer Research Center of Excellence at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center, to throw out the ceremonial first pitch to Mancini before a home game. Dr. Azad has a special tie to the Orioles, as the oncologist who worked with Mancini during his battle against stage III colon cancer. (Davis - Birdland Insider - 7/12/2021)
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.
Jan 10, 2020: Mancini and the Orioles avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year deal worth $4.75 million
- Jan 15, 2021: Mancini and the Orioles avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year deal worth $4.75 million.