'Back to being myself:' Trey Mancini hopes to rejoin Orioles, continue cancer advocacy
On the bad days over the past eight months, Trey Mancini always tried to take walks, an effort to keep in motion even as the cancer-killing chemicals left his body preferring to simply lie around all day.
He didn’t want to stop moving forward.
His completion of chemotherapy in September, paired with those walks and the half-hour workouts he mixed in throughout his six-month treatment for Stage III colon cancer, have Mancini confident he’ll be ready to resume his baseball career when the Orioles begin spring training in a few months. On a Zoom call Wednesday, Mancini said his recent blood work has shown no traces of tumor DNA or cancer.
“There’s no reason, right now, for me to believe that if spring training started tomorrow, I wouldn’t be ready to go because I really would,” Mancini said. "When I get there in February, I really think everybody will look at me and think that nothing happened if they didn’t know what happened.
“I didn’t really try to ask ‘why’ too much. I just wanted to get through it and attack it and get back to being myself.”
Mancini, 28, underwent surgery to remove a cancerous tumor from his colon March 12, the same day the coronavirus pandemic temporarily shut down Major League Baseball. When the sport resumed in July, Mancini was absent as he underwent biweekly chemotherapy treatments.
He and his girlfriend, Sara Perlman, tried to make the most of the weeks leading up to a treatment, when Mancini often felt his best as the effects from the previous round faded, by doing regular workouts with cardio and light weights. It didn’t take long after the treatments were completed for him to start hitting, with tee work marking the beginning of an effort to get back to the form that produced a .291/.364/.535 batting line with 35 home runs and 97 RBIs in 2019.
Mancini normally waits until the days following Thanksgiving to begin hitting in the offseason, but the layoff has prompted changes to his routine.
“It’s something you want to slowly progress into because I had a pretty good amount of time off, so you really want to ease into it, retrain your muscles,” he said. "I have the inkling sometimes to go in there and take swings at 100% right at the beginning, and you’ve got to remember you’re not totally conditioned for that.
“By the time especially December rolls around in a few weeks, I’ll probably even be ahead of where I normally am in the offseason.”
Mancini said neither he nor the Orioles have committed much time to discussing how he fits onto the 2021 roster and whether he’ll be at first base, his primary position before reaching the majors, or the outfield, where he’s spent most of his time in Baltimore. He’s open to whatever means he gets to play again.
“If they want to try me out at second base, I’ll do it,” he quipped. “Don’t recommend that, but literally, whatever they want, I’m thankful to go out there and perform for the team, and I know I’ll do that.”
That’s welcome news for an Orioles team that missed Mancini in 2020, both on and off the field. Players and coaches regularly wore T-shirts featuring #F16HT, a nod to Mancini’s jersey number, and at season’s end, Mancini received a team photo of everyone in those shirts, with messages of support signed around it.
Tuesday, the Orioles announced that the public sales of the shirts raised more than $80,000 for the Colorectal Cancer Alliance, which Mancini has joined as a member of the organization’s “Never Too Young” advisory board.
“It’s just another testament to everybody in Baltimore and their support and rallying around me during this really tough time,” Mancini said. “It just means the world to me.”
Mancini said his efforts as an advocate are only beginning. He has already started brainstorming for other ways to make an impact, including hopes to financially support other young people who need screenings but might not be able to afford them.
Although he noted numerous times that he feels “totally like myself,” Mancini knows his own cancer battle is in some ways still continuing. He was unsure how the pandemic’s continuance into next year would affect his return but acknowledged that as a cancer survivor, he could be more susceptible to the virus' effects. Over the next year, he’ll get screened every three months, and then every six months for several years after that, checking that there’s no recurrence of the cancer.
But he’s not allowing any thoughts of that potential hold him back as he prepares to rejoin the Orioles.
“That’s something that’s pretty largely out of my control,” he said. “I’m doing everything I can physically to be ready to play and to still have a long career, and I’m feeling really good about that.”