Mancini seeing “light at the end of the tunnel” as Orioles play without him

July 24, 2020 | Luke Jones

Orioles slugger Trey Mancini reached out to congratulate Cedric Mullins on making the Opening Day roster Thursday after the young outfielder’s well-documented struggles last season.

The 2019 Most Valuable Oriole keeps tabs on the club through conversations with manager Brandon Hyde and teammates like relief pitcher Richard Bleier. He’s optimistic about the rebuilding Orioles’ potential to surprise some critics in a shortened 60-game schedule where “you never really know what can happen.”

But the 28-year-old Mancini won’t be in the lineup as the Orioles begin this unprecedented 2020 season at Fenway Park this weekend and he continues treatment for Stage III colon cancer that was diagnosed in March.

“It’s strange. It’s the first time since I was about 3 years old that I’m not playing baseball during the year,” Mancini said in a video conference call on Friday. “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, but it was nice watching some new baseball.

“I’m really excited to watch the guys tonight. 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.”

Currently living in D.C. and driving to Johns Hopkins in Baltimore every two weeks for chemotherapy, Mancini says he’s starting to see “the light at the end of the tunnel” with just five treatments remaining and scheduled to be completed in late September. He’s beginning to think more about baseball and resuming a career that included 50 or more extra-base hits in each of his first three major league seasons and a career-high 35 home runs and 38 doubles last year.

Watching live games sparks that baseball itch in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic that’s only magnified an already challenging fight with cancer, but he says he’s managing well.

“I’ve been feeling good,” Mancini said. “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. I’ve gotten really used to kind of the routine of everything that chemo’s thrown at me.”

That routine without baseball has included becoming a fan of English Premier League soccer and taking walks around the District. At greater risk to the coronavirus with his condition, Mancini strongly endorses the wearing of face coverings in public.

That desire to pick up a bat or to play catch grows daily, but it comes with a different outlook than dwelling too much on a slump at the plate or his club’s most recent loss when he plans to return to the diamond next season.

“Pretty much before all this, I feel like the biggest struggles I’d gone through all had to do with baseball,” Mancini said. “I never really faced anything kind of like a real-life crisis like this. It put a lot of things in perspective.

“I think, in the future, it will help me in baseball and life. I realize kind of what’s important in life during all this.”