Mancini focused on health as Orioles open season without him

Trey Mancini can see the light at the end of the tunnel. The final chemotherapy treatment and ride from D.C. to Johns Hopkins Hospital. The change in mindset from beating cancer, a fight that leaves him weak and with no appetite for about 48 hours after that trip into Baltimore, to beginning workouts that get him ready for the 2021 baseball season.

He’s so close. Five more treatments every other Monday, the last on Sept. 21, and he’s hopefully defeated his most formidable opponent.

Mancini-Shades-Orange-ST-sidebar.jpg“I’m feeling good,” Mancini said this morning in a Zoom chat with the media. “I’m over halfway done. ... After my infusions I’ll feel pretty sluggish and not great for a few days, and then I bounce back pretty quickly and have about nine or 10 days of feeling good before I go back. So I’ve gotten really used to kind of the routine of everything that chemo has thrown at me.”

The next pitch delivered to Mancini won’t come on opening day. He never targeted July 24 in Boston as a return date. He knew what was coming: the separation from teammates and whatever festivities are held during a pandemic with no fans in the seats.

Doesn’t make it any easier.

“It’s strange,” he said. “It’s the first time since I was about 3 years old that I’m not playing baseball during the year, so it’s definitely a little weird. I watched the games last night and it was great to see it back on TV. It was so good to have live baseball back instead of reruns from way back when, which I like watching, too.

“I’m really excited to watch the guys tonight and yeah, it’s tough not being there. I wish more than anything I could be out there with them, but I’ve definitely got bigger things to worry about right now.”

Mancini underwent surgery on March 12 to remove a cancerous tumor from his colon - on the same day that the sport shut down. After he stood in the clubhouse and broke the news to teammates who were stunned and scared for him.

The interaction hasn’t ceased, it’s just been tweaked to fit the circumstances.

“Talk to the guys a pretty good amount, but I wouldn’t say I’ve had everyday interaction,” Mancini said. “Hyder (manager Brandon Hyde) has done a good job of keeping me updated and I talked to Richard Bleier for a long time a couple days ago, and they just kind of update me on everything going on there. And whenever they have Zoom meetings or anything I hop on, too, so I get to see everybody via Zoom.

“I pretty much know everything that’s been going on there and some of the roster battles that have been going on and everything like that. So I’ve tried to keep tabs on everything going on up in Baltimore.”

Mancini is available to counsel teammates and offer advice and encouragement from long distance. His leadership role transfers from the clubhouse to his home.

“I’m still a part of the team even though I’m not able to be up there given the circumstances of everything going on in the world, but I’ll definitely still, and I think all the guys know that, too, I’ll still be here if they need anybody to reach out to,” he said. “Even yesterday I talked to Cedric (Mullins) a little bit since he made the club. I think that was such a really cool story, that he ended last year at Double-A and fought his way back and won himself an opening day roster spot. After a year that doesn’t go how you’d expect and you can come back the next year and build yourself back up, I think that’s really cool. So I always want to reach out to guys when stuff like that happens.”

The baseball fan in Mancini comes out as he watches the games, including two exhibitions against the Nationals that aired on MASN.

“I’m wanting us to win every game out there really badly,” he said. “It’s almost like being a kid again, just watching the games on TV. You want to just get up and start swinging a bat and throwing a ball around because I haven’t really been able to do that too much, so it kind of gives you the itch to go out there and play or even just go to a batting cage and start swinging. So yeah, it was really fun to watch and gave me the itch to start picking up the bat again and everything.”

Mancini might not be recognized while he takes walks in D.C. to break the monotony of his confinement and attempts to get some exercise.

He’s the one wearing the mask.

“I’m definitely Team Mask. I can tell you that,” he said.

“I make sure every time I leave here that I’ve got it on, and you never know when you can contract this thing and it’s so easily spread. I guess if you look at me you don’t really know I’m in the immunocompromised subcategory, but you never know who is. I think it’s obviously respectful and it’s not too difficult to put a mask on. I know it’s kind of turned into a big debate and I don’t think it should have. I’m definitely all on board for the masks and just treating everybody with respect and staying socially distant and listening to experts that know what they’re talking about.

“This could be curbed if everyone follows all the protocols. It’s not really that hard to do.”

Other hobbies and interests besides long walks in the city include following Premiere League Soccer, which satisfied Mancini’s craving for sports earlier in the summer. He’s become a fan of Aston Villa and is picking up on the rules and terminologies.

“I realize they’re about to get relegated whenever I decided that,” he said. “But they’re not in position, I think, to stay in the Premiere League, so they have a big game Sunday. I even bought a shirt.”

A much bigger day is coming, when Mancini can slip on his uniform jersey.

“I think I’ve put everything in perspective,” he said. “It is a little tough and definitely weird not being out there, but just given the situation of why I’m not out there, that’s kind of been my main focus throughout all this. And I know that I’ll be back out there with them eventually, but right now I’m just more concerned with my treatments and making sure everything’s going well with that and everything’s looking good for the future.

“The shock of everything at the beginning and having to go through chemotherapy, I didn’t really know what to expect. It’s certainly not ideal and I’m definitely looking forward for it to be over, but it just kind of puts a lot of things in your life in perspective. Pretty much before all this I feel like the biggest struggles that I’ve gone through all had to do with baseball. I never really faced anything like a real-life kind of crisis like this, so it put a lot of things in perspective. And I think in the future it will help me in baseball and in life.

“Just kind of putting things in perspective, I think, is the big picture I’ve seen, and I realize what is important in life during all this.”

Baseball isn’t No. 1 on that list, but it’s always going to hover near the top.

“I’ve started to get to the point where you see the light at the end of the tunnel a little bit,” he said. “You kind of get within two months of finishing and especially now that baseball’s on TV and I’ve been seeing it and that’s all getting cranked up, I’ve definitely been thinking more about being done with my chemo regimen and just starting the offseason and getting ready for next year. So I definitely have that inspiration right now, for sure. Not that I didn’t before, but I think it’s heightened now that baseball is coming back and I’m getting closer to the end.

“Just getting back to my normal life like how it was before March 6 sounds pretty darn good right now.”

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