CHICAGO—Two hours before game time on Friday, Trey Mancini was surrounded by his former Oriole teammates on the field. Less than a year ago, they were his teammates, but now he’s on his second team since the Orioles traded him to the Houston Astros on August 1st, 2022.
Mancini won a World Series title with the Astros, though he didn’t play well down the stretch, and by the time Houston came to Baltimore in late September, manager Dusty Baker decided to sit him because he wasn’t hitting.
After his lackluster stint with the Astros, where he hit .176 in 51 games and was 1-for-21 (.048) in the postseason, Mancini had a World Series ring and a long wait on the free-agent market.
“It was pretty slow moving,” Mancini said. “I got married in December. That was on the forefront of my mind up until that point, but at least took my mind off of free agency and the ‘what if?’ and all that, and everything came together pretty quickly in January.”
Mancini married Sara Perlman and signed a two-year, $14 million contract with the Cubs, not far from Notre Dame, where he graduated from with a degree in political science.
“It wasn’t a lot of time to stew,” Mancini said. “It came together quickly. I went to college nearby and have a lot of friends here. One of my sisters lives here, so it’s been cool. I visited Chicago a million times, so it’s cool to be here and to play here. It’s really cool. To get to play at Wrigley every day is incredible.”
Mancini went 2-for-2 with a single and double, two walks and two runs scored in the Cubs’ 10-3 win over the Orioles.
When most longtime players leave the Orioles, there’s a scrum when they meet the Orioles as visitors for the first time. Last year, Mancini’s Astros faced the Orioles twice after he was traded, and he talked with the Baltimore media in Houston and at Oriole Park.
Nearly 11 months after the trade, there were about 15 media members, both Baltimore and Chicago, surrounding Mancini.
“I hope I treated you guys nice in my time there,” the ever-gracious Mancini said. “I hope that’s what it means. It was such a special connection between the city and the organization there. It’s never going to go away. It’s cool to see old friends and everybody else.”
Mancini has warm feelings for Baltimore. He joined the organization 10 years ago this week as an eighth-round draft pick, and despite his outstanding play and leadership, he’ll be remembered for his courageous fight against colon cancer, which cost him the 2020 season.
His comeback a year later was inspiring, and after his inside-the-park home run in Baltimore last July 28th, he knew that he had played his last game there. The warm feelings for the Orioles remain.
“I think it was probably 10 years ago, possibly today, that I made my professional debut in Aberdeen, and if you would have told me 10 years ago everything that would have happened between then and now, I don’t know if I would have believed it back then,” he said. “It’s always going to hold such a special place in my heart. It’s where I met my wife. It’s where my life was saved. I’m always indebted to the community, [Johns] Hopkins, and the organization. It’s a special connection that will never go away, for sure.”
Mancini played for Oriole teams that lost 333 games in 2018, 2019 and 2021, and then was traded just after the team finally became a contender.
“I’m not surprised at all,” Mancini said. “They’ve turned it around quickly. In 2018, we had a really tough year … and they turned it around in a few years and it’s a tip of the hat to them and what they were able to do. It’s a really impressive turnaround.”
Mancini retains warm feelings for manager Brandon Hyde, too, and how compassionate he was when his cancer diagnosis came in March 2020. He was convinced Hyde was the right manager for the rebuilding Orioles
“I knew it from Day 1 that he was,” Mancini said. “He came in there and established a culture. He came from here, and once I got here, I could tell he came from Chicago, and in ’19.
“I wasn’t around in ’20, obviously, and then ’21 were some tough years for us, but the way he carried himself, handled it, was incredible. He got rewarded last year. The turnaround is a huge testament to him and the job he’s done there, what he expects from his guys. He was such a pleasure to play for and somebody I consider a friend.”
Hyde returned the compliments.
“[In] 19, we weren’t very good, but he had a great year,” Hyde said. “I just got to know him really well that year and appreciate how hard he worked, the kind of human being he was. I really got to like him a lot, as a person, as a player, great parents, the whole thing. We’ve become friends, and then he gets sick and that’s just such a blow. I’ll never forget that day, such a blow in every way, makes you rethink everything.
“Going through that, you start to appreciate the guy even more coming back from what he did, what he came back from, how tough he is and how strong he is, how he handled everything, had so much admiration for him.”
Despite the friendships Mancini has with Hyde and his former teammates, he’s moved on.
“Last year, it was definitely a little strange because I had just gotten traded and we played them twice right after,” he said. “It was definitely a little weird right after, especially since I was on the team in 2022, but now a year removed, it truly is like any other series. It’s just a team that I happen to have a lot of friends on, basically. That’s how it feels.”
Despite executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias’ affinity for Mancini when he traded him, the Orioles weren’t a suitor for him in free agency.
“I mostly knew it was off the table,” Mancini said. “It’s not anything I gave a ton of thought to in any regard. It’s out of my control, mostly your agent deals with it, so I mostly wait for my agent to let me know what was going on, things like that. I tried to remain emotionally distant from everything. People that have gone through free agency told me that’s the best way to go and it is, if you can make yourself do it.”
Mancini took all those losses, watched the team rebuild, and still got a championship. Now he gets satisfaction from watching his old team contend.
“I feel like I saw the turnaround happen,” Mancini said. “I’m really happy for them, and proud of them, and the way they’ve been playing. It’s been really impressive.”