By Jake Mintz
FOX Sports activities MLB Author
On Sept. 17, 2016, Trey Mancini was sweating his ass off beneath the Florida solar.
The yet-to-debut, No. 6 Orioles prospect had already completed his minor league season and was staying contemporary on the staff’s Spring Coaching advanced simply in case the O’s wanted reinforcements down the stretch as they battled for a Wild Card spot. In Mancini’s thoughts, it was principally eyewash. He’d get his large league call-up in some unspecified time in the future in 2017.
However then Steve Pearce, the Orioles’ right-handed bench bat, harm his elbow and landed on the 60-day IL, opening the door for Mancini. Just a few days later the 24-year-old made his large league debut at Camden Yards in opposition to the Pink Sox, launching a homer within the fifth inning for his first profession hit.
Mancini caught absolute fireplace down the stretch for the O’s, hitting three homers and a double in simply 15 plate appearances. However in that fateful AL Wild Card loss to the Blue Jays, Mancini by no means noticed the sphere.
“I don’t think at that time, I truly realized what it all meant.” Mancini informed FOX Sports activities again in Might. “It was cool to me, yeah, but looking back I’m really lucky to have gotten to experience that. A lot of guys go their whole careers without experiencing a playoff game.”
It will be the closest he ever acquired to a postseason ball subject as an Oriole.
On Monday afternoon, 5 years and ten months after he first donned the cartoon hen, Mancini was dealt to the Houston Astros as a part of a three-way commerce with the Tampa Bay Rays.
In his 5 plus seasons with the membership, Mancini grew to become a fan favourite, at instances the one watchable lifeforce on abysmal, zipless Orioles groups. The proverbial “hold-your-hand-through-the-darkness” participant, somebody who by no means grumbled, by no means pouted and who oozed kindness and compassion wherever he went.
His well-documented battle with colon most cancers in 2020 solely additional deepened his connection to town and fanbase, as Trey acquired remedy down the highway at Johns Hopkins Medical Middle. As his story grew to become nationwide information, Mancini started spreading consciousness for others along with his illness, even whereas present process his personal chemotherapy in Baltimore throughout the 2020 season. Mancini returned on Opening Day of 2021 to a standing ovation.
“I love this city, I love these fans.” Mancini shared. “It’s been kind of a strange journey, going through this entire rebuild, but I’ve always loved my time here. It’s a really special place no matter what happens.”
What occurred was a commerce, a commerce that months in the past felt like a foregone conclusion. Mancini was an impending free agent, the Orioles a membership destined for an additional fifth place end. His departure appeared inevitable. However then the funniest factor occurred: Baltimore began successful.
In July, the membership ripped off 10 straight wins, catapulting themselves into the hunt for the third AL Wild Card spot. Even after Mancini acquired a curtain name in his ultimate house sport earlier than the commerce deadline, after one of the vital distinctive and unforgettable homers in franchise historical past, it nonetheless felt just like the staff was too near competition for GM Mike Elias to really pull the set off. The vibes had been too good and Mancini too basic to these vibes.
Baltimore’s shock ascension from AL East punchline to pesky playoff contender had them at 51-51, simply three video games out of the third Wild Card spot heading into play on Monday evening. They’ve developed right into a close-knit unit that is helped to reinvigorate a dormant franchise. Attendance at Camden Yards is up, the vitality is just too. That Orioles magic, that … feeling, felt prefer it’d lastly returned.
However dealing away Mancini is one hell of a vibe swap. It is a miscalculation: a misguided prioritization of worth over values. The 2022 Orioles have been one hell of a celebration, and by buying and selling Mancini, Mike Elias is all of a sudden the man tripping over and breaking the speaker, so the music cuts off.
“It’s gonna be tough without him,” Orioles first baseman Ryan Mountcastle mentioned to MLB.com’s Zachary Silver. “And I know a lot of us are pretty upset.”
Since turning into the staff’s head baseball operations particular person forward of the 2019 season, O’s GM Mike Elias has been ruthlessly environment friendly, prepared to deal away veterans when given a chance to construct for the longer term. It is a cold-hearted method to staff constructing that is lastly begun to repay within the win column.
Objectively, it is a stable haul — Seth Johnson was Tampa’s No. 6 prospect per FanGraphs, Chayce McDermott was Houston’s No. 10 — for 2 months of a .751 OPS first baseman about to hit free company, however it is a commerce with ramifications far past the spreadsheet.
Each metropolis, each fanbase has fashioned relationships with gamers. At instances these hyperlinks can really feel considerably compelled., They’ll really feel like a product of likelihood, considerably compulsory or transactional. However for no matter cause, Trey’s relationship with Baltimore at all times felt pure and genuine.
When requested again in Might about what he’ll keep in mind most from his time in Baltimore, Mancini zeroed in on the 2019 All-Star break. He’d had a fairly brutal first half of the season and was scuffling to seek out his footing because the face of the rebuilding Orioles.
However as an alternative of flying house to Florida for the break, Mancini stayed behind in Baltimore to be able to spend a while with a younger O’s fan named Mo Gaba who’d been recognized with a number of extreme kinds of most cancers.
“We’d met up once before,” Mancini remembered. “But I wanted to hang out with him without any cameras, so I took him and his mom to Dave & Busters. We had a great time. That moment just gave me a ton of perspective and helped turn my mental state and my season around.”
The 2 developed a particularly shut bond earlier than Gaba tragically handed away on July 28, 2020, particularly after Mancini acquired his personal analysis in March of that 12 months. Trey would usually cease by the Gaba family simply to spend a while with Mo in between chemo therapies.
The staff now holds an annual Mo Gaba Day at Camden Yards on July 28, a day on which Mancini has homered every of the final two seasons, together with his unbelievable sun-aided inside-the-parker final week. That Mo Gaba Day will reside on indefinitely, is only a small, however important a part of Mancini’s Baltimore legacy.
Professional sports activities within the trendy age is nearly totally about successful and dropping. Who’s successful? Who’s dropping? Who’s buying and selling for whom to be able to do extra successful and fewer dropping? And so on, and so on, and so on.
However generally it is a couple of bit greater than that. Followers love successful as a result of basically, they’re searching for one thing or somebody(s) to latch onto; something they’ll emotionally latch onto to be able to distract them from the doldrums of their day by day lives.
In Baltimore, Trey Mancini did not do an entire lot of successful — solely 37% or so of his video games to be precise — however he did succeed within the way more necessary job: connecting. Groups rise and fall, seasons come and go, however gamers and their actions stand the take a look at of time. That actuality is maybe what Mike Elias is lacking. It isn’t at all times in regards to the wins and losses, whether or not in 2022 or 2026 or 2032, generally it is about having a cause to present a crap, it is about having the ability to care.
Baltimore cared about Trey Mancini as a result of Trey Mancini cared about Baltimore.
“This city …” Mancini mentioned “This city saved my life.”
Jake Mintz is the louder half of @CespedesBBQ and a baseball author for FOX Sports activities. He’s an Orioles fan residing in New York Metropolis, and thus, he leads a lonely existence most Octobers. If he’s not watching baseball, he’s nearly definitely using his bike. You may comply with him on Twitter @Jake_Mintz.
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