Mancini on Clemente Award nomination and good health

Rather than gather players on the field to surprise Trey Mancini with his nomination for the prestigious Roberto Clemente Award, Orioles manager Brandon Hyde chose a team flight to announce the news.

Opinions of Mancini keep soaring like the charters.

To coincide with Mancini’s nomination, Major League Baseball is making a $7,500 donation to The Food Project, a Baltimore-based organization that provides cooking, farming, restaurant skills, job opportunities, sustainable food sources and mentorship to Southwest Baltimore youths.

The first baseman is usually the one doing the giving, using his survival from Stage 3 colon cancer and return to baseball as a platform to educate others and raise both money and awareness.

“Just wanted to start off by congratulating Trey Mancini for being the nomination for the Clemente Award,” Hyde said while beginning his daily media session in the dugout. “We’re all super proud of him and pulling for him to win it. It’s a very special award and to just be nominated is an amazing accomplishment and we’re pulling for him.

“He’s just incredibly classy, very respectful. He’s the same guy all the time. He’s very intense when he plays, but away from the dugout and the clubhouse and in public, how he interacts with fans, he just treats people with the upmost respect, is extremely generous, very caring. Just a great guy.”

Past recipients of the team nomination include Hanser Alberto last season, Chris Davis from 2017-19 and Adam Jones in 2016.

Severino-Congrats-Mancini-White-HR-Sidebar.jpgMancini said his selection “means everything in the world.”

“It’s one of the greatest honors that I’ve received in my entire career,” he said. “I don’t even know where to begin with Roberto Clemente. Obviously, I wasn’t alive to watch him play, but I learned a lot about him growing up and he’s one of my favorite players, so to be the Orioles nominee for this award is a dream come true. It really is.

“It’s such a great honor and there’s so many deserving guys, so there was a little bit of a surprise there, I’d say, when I was announced as the nominee.”

Mancini would appear to be a lock for the American League’s Comeback Player of the Year after missing the entire 2020 season following surgery and six months of chemotherapy treatments. But he’s even busier and more productive off the field.

Following his surgery, Mancini became heavily involved with the Colorectal Cancer Alliance, joining their “Never Too Young” advisory board. He joined his sisters in launching The Trey Mancini Foundation.

Mancini partnered with a Frederick, Md., branch of Blessings in a Backpack, a national organization that feeds elementary-aged children on weekends who face food insecurity. In July, The Trey Mancini Foundation, Blessings in a Backpack and the Orioles raised more than $2,800 during an essential items drive and collected over 1,000 pounds of food for children in need in the Baltimore area.

“My sisters and I had talked for a couple years about starting a foundation,” he said, “and we kind of got the (groundwork) running before I was diagnosed with cancer and the pandemic hit and everything like that, so it delayed it a little bit, but it’s always something we wanted to do. But especially since I got sick, I know what it’s like to go through an incredibly difficult time like that and sometimes you can’t really put into words how difficult it is. To kind of be there and go through it, you want to come out the other side and help everybody out who’s going through similar situations. So, yeah, it’s what I try to do every day.”

No matter how much of his time is used and in how many directions he’s pulled.

“It’s been pretty tough at times,” he said. “There’s usually a reminder at some point every day. Somebody in the stands will get your attention either with a sign or something like that that either they had cancer, somebody that they know is going through it, but at the same time I love to hear that, I love that I give people inspiration that way.

“But when there are constant reminders, it definitely reminds you of what you went through and things like that. I’m just coming up on a year of finishing chemotherapy, so the first year after your done is kind of the toughest year. That’s what everybody said, everybody told me it would be tough and they were right. Because there were a lot of worries, especially when you’re coming up on time to get scans and doing your DNA blood tests, there’s a lot of anxiety that goes into it because you want to make sure that you’re healthy. And you never want to go through anything like that and you never want it to come back.

“So balancing that with also playing baseball, trying to be myself, compete at the highest level, it can be tough sometimes, so I’ve learned a lot this year. Especially lately I feel like I’ve dealt with it and learned how to deal with it, but it took quite a few months for me to do that, so it’s definitely been a year unlike any other in that regard.”

The fear that the cancer might return stays with Mancini. Doesn’t matter if the past results have been ideal. The sense of relief eventually gives way to a certain level of anxiety.

“It’s tough, I’m not going to lie,” he said. “It’s great whenever you get the recheck and you get good news, and then for a month, month and a half you don’t really think about it much. And once that month and a half passes and you’re kind of within a month of getting checked up again, it’s hard not to think about it. Any ache or pain you have, you can wonder, ‘Is that related cancer, is that just kind of a normal ache or pain.’ These are things that kind of go through your head. So yeah, it’s tough, but luckily I just recently had checkups and they went well, so I’m really happy about that.

“The further time goes, I’d say it gets a little bit easier, but it never gets too easy.”

Mancini’s approaching the exact date of his final treatment on Sept. 21. He won’t do anything out of the ordinary to commemorate it.

“It’s a great milestone and one that I was always looking forward to, but nothing too special planned,” he said. “We’re probably playing that day, I’m guessing.”

Mancini is appearing in his 133rd game tonight, 21 fewer than his 2019 season that concluded with his selection as Most Valuable Oriole. He’s come out of the lineup for occasional rest and after being nailed by pitches.

“A year ago from right now I was in a pretty tough place physically,” he said. “When I finished treatments, I knew I had a lot of work to do. I didn’t really want to broadcast it that much at the time. I was sick and I was a lot weaker than I had been, so I kind of had to work out basically immediately after my treatments were over. I knew I didn’t have much time to spare and think about what just happened and things like that. I had to get to work. So, it’s basically been a year and a half now straight of every day hard work and things like that.

“I’m really glad with physically how I’ve held up this year and with the exception of getting hit by pitches in weird spots a couple times or maybe needing a game off after a tough stretch, I’m really happy with how I’ve held up physically.”

Asked what he’ll do after the season, Mancini grinned and said, “Probably go into hiding these next couple months.”

“Sara (Perlman) and I are moving out West for the offseason. We’re really excited to just kind of get away for a couple months and just enjoy everything.”

Feelings that come much easier to him.

“I’ve completely re-evaluated priorities,” he said. “I said this a lot, but before I was diagnosed, my biggest problems in the world were all baseball related. Basically, a slump was the biggest adversity I had to deal with. This is something unlike anything that I had every dealt with before.

“I promised myself last year if I got through this, if I was healthy, that I’d wake up every morning no matter what and smell the roses, just appreciate being healthy and being alive, and I really try to do that every day. Whether I’m feeling good at the time in baseball or not, I always try to be appreciative every day.

“And I don’t want to say that I took that for granted before, but I clearly don’t let a lot of days pass and not really think about those things. So I make sure every day to appreciate where I am, because even lately, there’s been a lot of photo memories popping up on my phone from like a year ago today and I just look at it and I’m really thankful to be where I am now compared to a year ago.”

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