Orioles selling #F16HT T-shirts as latest gesture of support for Mancini

The Orioles keep finding creative ways to offer their support for outfielder Trey Mancini since his diagnosis of Stage 3 colon cancer in March. More than just the phone calls and video messages that were arranged after baseball shut down and teammates returned home.

The latest gesture also will benefit the Colorectal Cancer Alliance.

f16ht T.jpgThe Orioles announced today that they’re selling #F16HT T-shirts, with the proceeds going toward the Alliance’s Patient and Family Support Services. They’re available for purchase exclusively on Orioles.com/Auctions at a cost of $25.

Mancini is participating in the organization’s “Never Too Young” advisory board, an advocate for young-onset patients and survivors.

The hashtag is the creation of Caroline Means, the wife of Orioles left-hander John Means. The Orioles ran with it and came up with the T-shirt idea.

“In spring training obviously Trey had chatted with the guys and honestly we didn’t know what was going on,” she said. “They decided to keep it very intimate as a team, which was completely understood and we didn’t pry for any information. It became public to us when it became public to everybody else.

“I was just sitting there in our little Sarasota rental and I was thinking about, what is a small way to show Trey, someone who is so positive and uplifting and selfless and does so much for everybody else ... It’s just so evident that that is just who he is to his core. I was just thinking about what it’s like to watch somebody battle cancer, to watch a loved one, and something that just came to my mind was ‘fight.’ And I knew and we all know that that’s exactly what Trey was going to do. He has fought with (Baltimore superfan) Mo Gaba and been a positive influence and has helped that little boy immensely. It’s so evident.”

Caroline, a former professional soccer goalie, incorporated Mancini’s uniform No. 16 in the hashtag, which she launched on her Twitter account.

“Honestly, it just kind of came up and I was like, ‘Does that make sense?’ with his number and with him being from Notre Dame,” she said. “Trey and I always joked because I went to USC and we’re ‘Fight On’ and they’re ‘Fighting Irish,’ and so I thought it was just a funny, very small homage, a small way to show him support. Really wasn’t thinking much of it and just wanted to put up a little tweet to show support for Trey.

“It just kind of caught on, I guess, and that’s something I was excited about, especially right now. What’s so important for the baseball world is to see that these players are so much more than athletes and entertainers. These are human beings who go through hardships, just as so many people in the country are going through hardships right now. And it’s an amazing way to really connect the fans to one of the greatest human beings the Orioles organization has and will ever see.

“We’re just so fortunate that we know Trey and get to be a very small part of cheering him on through this.”

Mancini is undergoing his sixth chemotherapy treatment on Monday. He’s subjected to them every two weeks and they last for three days.

There’s the usual loss of appetite and weight until Mancini again begins craving submarine sandwiches, which have become his go-to meal.

The news of Mancini’s colon cancer and his March 12 surgery came as he approached his 28th birthday. He’s at Stage 3.

“I’ve learned firsthand that colon cancer doesn’t discriminate when it comes to age,” Mancini said in a statement included in today’s press release. “One in 10 colorectal cancer patients are diagnosed before the age of 50. While I never thought I would be in this position, I am fortunate to have a platform that allows me to help others.

“I’m looking forward to partnering with the Colorectal Cancer Alliance to raise awareness and help support my fellow fighters.”

The Orioles arranged further tests on Mancini in spring training after he complained of fatigue during his workouts. He tried to dismiss it as a product of growing older and later thought that he had celiac disease.

“We were devastated,” said Caroline Means. “It’s not just about baseball. The guy had an incredible year last year and we were looking forward to seeing him do so much more on the field this year. But we were just devastated because, as a former professional player and college coach, something that always rings true to us is that it’s person over player. We were devastated for Trey as a person because of what he’s going through, and also as a player because you work tirelessly on your craft and that’s going to have to be put on the back burner right now as he fights through this.

“We just wanted to do anything and everything to show him that he’s not alone in this in any way. And he has such a strong support system, his family, and that’s immediately who came to mind. His mom and his dad and his sisters and brothers in law and Sara (Perlman), just how generous they are and how supportive they are of everybody on the team. We really wanted to make sure that they felt that reciprocation in any way. And I know there’s going to be even bigger ways moving forward that the team can come together and do that.

“But I think it’s a reality check. He’s so young and these guys get perspective on life and on the game. We all love Trey so much and we are so hopeful for him. That devastation sets in, but then more than anything you’re like, you don’t want to see anybody ill, but we know without a shadow of a doubt that Trey will rise to the occasion and he’s going to beat this horrible disease. We just know it.”

The diagnosis hit too close to home for the Means family. John’s father, Alan, found out last summer that he had pancreatic cancer.

Making the comparisons causes Caroline to become emotional, her voice lowering and cracking for a few seconds.

“It’s something that John and I have talked about a lot, just putting ourselves in (Mancini’s) family’s shoes and Sara’s shoes as his partner in life,” she said. “We just know the hard side of it. It’s horrible. It’s a horrible thing to watch, so we just felt like, man, we really want to rally everyone around him, because it takes a village and it takes constant support and it is really a very difficult thing to go through.

“A hashtag is such a small, silly way to show support, but it takes a lot of endurance and constant love from people cheering you on, and that’s what we want to do.”

Colorectal cancer is the third-most commonly diagnosed cancer and the second-leading cause of cancer deaths in men and women combined in the United States. However, it’s very treatable in its early stages, with a five-year survival rate of 90 percent.

Early detection is the key.

It might have saved Mancini’s life.

“We are pleased to partner with Trey and the Orioles organization to help raise awareness about young-onset colorectal cancer,” said Michael Sapienza, CEO of the Colorectal Cancer Alliance. “We just released our annual Never Too Young Survey Report that highlights the sad reality that diagnoses among those under 50 are on the rise, and our younger population is being misdiagnosed or their symptoms overlooked in the exam room. Trey’s willingness to share his story and use his platform to advocate and bring awareness will go a long way in saving lives.”

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