Quick Q&A with Trey Mancini

Most of Trey Mancini’s swings are now done with a tennis racket. He’s living in Miami with wife Sara Perlman, his last baseball game played in spring training with the Marlins before they granted his release on March 23. Interest from other teams hasn’t really percolated and he’s fine with any outcome.

The Cubs are paying Mancini through the rest of the season after signing him to a two-year, $14 million deal in January 2023. They released him seven months later after he batted .234/.299/.336 with 12 doubles and four home runs in 79 games, and he spent a week in the Reds organization, appearing in five games with Triple-A Louisville and going 6-for-19 with two doubles and two home runs.

That release was followed by a minor league deal with the Marlins in January, a 9-for-35 spring with a double and home run, and the opt-out after being told that he wouldn’t make the club.

Mancini, 32, has a World Series ring with the Astros but his finest seasons and fondest memories are with the Orioles, who drafted him in 2013 and brought him to the majors three years later. They traded him at the 2022 deadline while in contention, an unpopular move with fans but not unexpected with free agency pending.

Nothing is more important than what follows here: Trey Mancini has been cancer-free for four years.

He undergoes blood tests every three months to confirm again that he beat Stage 3 colon cancer, which was diagnosed in March 2020. He’s amazed at how much time has passed. It doesn’t seem that long ago that the news was delivered and his life would change forever.

The “quick” part of his Q&A isn’t entirely accurate. We spoke on the phone for almost 30 minutes, though some of it was getting caught up and was kept out of the transcription. And Mancini doesn’t take any shortcuts with his answers, which was always appreciated.

Just another reminder, though unnecessary, that no player is going to be held in higher regard with the media than Mancini.

A Cubs reporter contacted me after Mancini joined the team to ask whether the first baseman was always this good with the Baltimore guys or if the Chicago media just got lucky. Yes, he was, from the very beginning until he left.

What are you doing these days?

“I live here (Miami) and just been hanging, living life. We’ve done just a little bit of traveling here and there. I’ve definitely picked up my tennis game. I stopped when I was about 14-years-old, when I got to high school. I always said like whenever I am done playing baseball, not that I necessarily am, that I’m going to kind of pick up where I left off in tennis when I had to stop playing and choose between tennis and baseball when I was younger. So doing a lot of tennis and working out.

“Whenever you have time on your hands you think about what you want to do next and things like that, so I’ve also been doing that, and I think I’d be interested in maybe one day doing some motivational speaking, just given everything that I’ve been through. And it’s actually kind of been a little bit of a fear of mine, so it’s another challenge, and something else to conquer would be getting good at that while also simultaneously helping others. And I think I’d be interested in getting back in the game in some capacity. I don’t know if that would be coaching-wise, but helping guys out in some sense would be pretty cool.

“When I came up in the Orioles organization, so many of the former players had such a big impact on me. B.J. Surhoff is one off the top of my head. And Brady Anderson. Those are a couple guys who really helped me a lot. So, to maybe be able to do that one day for some other guys would be cool, too.”

Are you still hoping to play this season?

“I’m definitely staying baseball ready and hitting some and staying in baseball shape. There hasn’t been too much coming my way on the Hot Stove either, though, so I understand where the game’s going, I understand my age and my position, and I had an extended period of time where I wasn’t performing like I previously had. So all that mixed together isn’t the best combination, but no matter what, I definitely have been able to look back, and I’ve been pretty reflective this year and proud of a lot of what I accomplished and got to do in my career.”

Did you think that you had a good shot at making the Marlins’ Opening Day roster in spring training?

“Yeah. I definitely had an opportunity. I got off to a slow start in spring, though, and I really picked it up about halfway through and finished strong, but it still wasn’t enough to make the team. But I still had such a great experience with the Marlins and really loved Skip (Schumaker) and getting to know all the guys there. It would have really been cool just since Sara and I live in Miami, getting to play at home, but it wasn’t in the cards. But I definitely thought I had an opportunity to make the team, but just didn’t happen and that’s OK.”

Did being released by the Cubs catch you by surprise, since you signed a two-year deal?

“I little bit, I would say. It wasn’t how I envisioned everything going there, but I didn’t perform up to my abilities at the end of the day. I felt like from about mid-April to mid-May that I really had some momentum and was basically getting on the right track. I put up a pretty good month, albeit not with good power numbers, I’ll say. Still, I thought that I was starting to get on the right track offensively. I got thrown into a platoon role there in mid-May and never really found my footing, but that’s not really an excuse. I’ve been around long enough and should be able to perform no matter how frequently I’m playing. I just wasn’t able to find consistency and I take most of the blame on that.”

Have you been keeping track of the Orioles and what they’re doing?

“Yeah, definitely. I obviously still have so many friends on the team and basically all the coaches are still there from when I was there. And I got to see it last year too, obviously. I faced them in Chicago. I still keep an eye on them a good amount. They’re just so deep, they’re so impressive. You just go down the lineup, there’s not a weak spot, and I feel like it’s almost a different guy every night. Obviously, you have Gunnar (Henderson) and Adley (Rutschman), really are mainstays, but also, Mounty (Ryan Mountcastle) is playing fantastic. (Ryan) O’Hearn, it’s been really cool to see him kind of have a career renaissance with the Orioles. He was a great change-of-scenery candidate and he made the most of it there. It’s somebody different every night who comes through, and I’ve definitely been keeping tabs on the guys, rooting for them from afar.”

You knew this was coming, that they were headed in this direction, but you also knew that you probably wouldn’t be around for it. It worked out that way. Does it make it any easier or harder to go through everything to get to that point but not be here now to enjoy it?

“When you have time to reflect you definitely look back and yeah, of course I wish that I was there to make the playoffs again with the Orioles. That’s how my career started there in 2016. I was there for like two weeks and got to be on a playoff roster, which was such a cool experience. And I remember in 2018 and 2019 and 2021, I’d always think to myself like, God, it would be so incredible and I wonder what the city would be like if we made the playoffs. It was always a dream of mine when I was there. But at the same time I also knew how my contract was working, everybody that was coming up. They just had such a deep talent pool coming up, and where my career was at.

“Even though it didn’t all line up, that’s OK. I got an opportunity to play every single day and be a middle-of-the-order mainstay on the team. I tried my best when I was there to really take on the role of helping the organization through those tougher times, because I got to be there at the end of us being really good and I wanted nothing more than for the organization to get back to that point. And in baseball it takes quite a few years to get there, and I knew that. Just trying to keep the fans engaged. Not that you have to try that hard because the fans are so amazing in Baltimore and they love the Orioles more than anything. But it’s something that I really took pride in and I feel really lucky that I got to be in that role, because who knows? Like, if I was on any other team I could have just been another good player in their lineup and maybe wouldn’t have had the impact that I was able to have in Baltimore.

“I look back with so much thankfulness and gratitude that I got to be in that role for the Orioles, no matter when it was.”

How’s Sara doing? I know she has a lot of friends here.

“She’s doing great. She’s actually starting a shoe company. She started it a year ago but she’s getting pretty close to launching in a few months here. She has a factory in Portugal that’s making the shoes for her and she’s been working really hard on it. Ryan Fuller’s wife, Georgia, is her partner in it. The two of them have really been doing a lot with that. She’s been busy and it should be pretty cool.

“They became super-good friends in 2022 and they both went to Portugal like a month ago together. They went to the factory. She’s been busier than I have.”

Most important, a health update. How are you? How are the checkups?

“Great. And thanks for asking. I still do this blood test called ‘Signatera’ every three months that brings me a lot of mental peace. That came back negative again. I’m four years out now, so it’s crazy how fast times goes. You still take it day-by-day, you never want to put the cart before the horse, but knock on wood everything’s looking really good. And you think about it less and less as time goes on. It’s still sometimes hard to believe that all of that happened, but like I told you I was reflecting a lot, it’s almost like two different people. It was like pre-cancer me and post-cancer me, because I think I definitely changed a lot through that in a lot of ways and it helps you grow up and mature as time goes on. Obviously, it’s something that you wish never happened to you, but you can definitely learn more than you could ever imagine whenever you go through something like that.

“I was thinking about this two days ago, just (head athletic trainer) Brian Ebel and his staff just insisting that I get a colonoscopy. It didn’t cross many people’s minds for that to happen and he was insisting that I go do it because he knew I was bleeding internally. When I got traded, I remember saying that these guys saved my life, and not a day goes by that I don’t think of them and everybody there. The staff, Hyder (Brandon Hyde). Especially in 2021. It was almost worse after the fact, being scared that it was going to come back and everything. There were some tough times for me that year, and Hyder was just so good throughout all of it and was there every step of the way. Everybody on that staff and the training staff, I’m just so thankful to this day and feeling indebted to.”

Obviously cancer impacted your life, but as you reflect, do you wonder how it impacted you professionally? When you look how your career has gone the last few years, how much it took out of you? Or do you think this is how it would have played out either way?

“You know, it’s a great question and it’s something I thought a lot about and here’s what I got. After I came back from cancer, I’ll say this – the game never came mindlessly to me like it did before. There was just this confidence that I always had beforehand, especially at the plate and kind of everything I did on the field. I just had such an innate knowledge of my ability and what I could do, and if I came up short, then it was all on me. I just didn’t come through or had a bad day. Whatever. But I knew at the end of the day that I was going to rake. And then, after I had cancer, I felt like I just had to try harder and maybe was like second-guessing mechanics a lot more. Like, something didn’t quite feel the same or come as easy. And I’d say a lot of it from a physical standpoint.

“Obviously mentally you change a lot and you know what you went through and what 2020 was like and going through chemotherapy, all of that. But physically, I think deep down I think I did know that something was a little different and I had to work a little harder. My lower half never seemed to be on the same page with my upper half, I guess. But with that being said, I think I was so comfortable in Baltimore and it was like so familiar to me that I was able to really grind it out. Even though I would have a good month, bad month here and there, I knew that I was going to be in the lineup every day and I knew that I had been in the organization for so long that there was a comfort in that to where I think it brought out the best in my abilities after I had cancer. And after I left, getting traded, I think a lot more of my identity … being an Oriole was much more part of my identity than I even knew at the time. I loved being an Oriole and the organization and the city so much, but I always thought like, oh, if I get traded I’ll be OK. And I was. I absolutely loved my time on the Astros and the Cubs. All the guys I played with, I’m still really good friends with. I had some great experiences on both teams. But there was just a certain comfort that came with being on the Orioles.

“What kind of makes me especially think that was, when I was with the Astros in ’22, I had a really good first three weeks. I know at the end of the day you look back and I had some struggles there for sure, but I had a really good first few weeks, and it wasn’t until the Orioles came to Houston where something like, I don’t know, almost seemed like it flipped or snapped inside of me, and it was really hard for me to see all my friends and play against them and know that I’m not probably going to ever play in Baltimore again. I think maybe because I had so much emotional attachment to the city and the organization, especially everything I had gone through, that I think that was kind of tough on me and that’s the period for some reason when I started struggling was after that series. It was kind of weird. That’s the best that I can explain it. Just really I guess made me thankful that I had the time that I did there, but after that I never really …

“Who knows? If I stayed on the Orioles I could have struggled and the same thing could have happened. I don’t know. I remember I think I did have a pretty big slump right before I got traded, so who knows? And in 2021 I had a pretty rough last three months, I believe. The last three or four months, too. So maybe I didn’t have the longevity after I got sick, maybe it was in my head. I don’t know. But yeah, I do think basically by and large, a much bigger part of my identity was being an Oriole than I even thought when I was there. If that makes sense.

“I look back now and if my playing days are behind me, then I definitely look back with gratitude that I got to play with so many great people, play for so many great people, because baseball at the end of the day is about the relationships you make and the brotherhood. During the season you’re with the team and the staff more than your own family, and it’s pretty cool to look back at all the people you played with and the relationships you make during it. I look back much more with gratitude than any bitterness to how it ended. How things transpired, especially after I left the Orioles, that’s all on me. I’ve got to play better, you know? If you don’t like it, play better, is the thing that we always used to say coming up, and it’s true. I did kind of maybe get tugged around a little bit, but at the end of the day you've got to learn how to perform whenever you're out there, whether it's sporadic playing time or not. I just wasn't able to do it.”

Some nights the Orioles are very aggressive at-bat...
O's game suspended, to be resumed in bottom of six...

By accepting you will be accessing a service provided by a third-party external to https://www.masnsports.com/