The Baltimore Orioles are embracing a new rallying cry that transcends the baseball diamond: #F16HT.
It’s a way of showing support for their teammate, Trey Mancini, who had a cancerous tumor removed from his colon and was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer in March.
Manager Brandon Hyde and numerous players, including Chris Davis, Austin Hays and Hanser Alberto, participated in a recent Zoom call with Mancini and held signs that read #F16HT.
Mancini likely won’t be part of the Orioles’ lineup in 2020, but he’s been a model of perseverance. He’s teaching valuable lessons to his younger teammates by his stoicism during the most challenging time of his life.
“From the second I got the diagnosis, I knew I had to accept it pretty quickly and I think that’s helped me a lot,” Mancini said. “I didn’t really mope around too much. Don’t get me wrong, it was really tough, especially the first few days.
“And talking to the team was really tough, too, and telling them what was going on. I think accepting it pretty quickly, knowing this is what’s going to happen, that helped me a lot.”
The Orioles initially announced March 7 that Mancini had left the team to undergo a “non-baseball medical procedure” without offering any specifics. The club later revealed the tumor was discovered during a colonoscopy. Mancini announced in a Players Tribune piece published April 28 that he began chemotherapy treatments April 13.
“Going into my [March] surgery, we weren’t sure if it was late stage 2 or early stage 3,” Mancini said. “There was a possibility that I wasn’t going to have to do chemotherapy, so that was a little tough. The doctor called me the morning of my birthday [March 18] and told me that three of my 23 lymph nodes, there are three that were right up next to the tumor that tested positive for cancer.
“So at that point, even though he got the tumor out, it didn’t really break through the colon. You never know if a cell can escape anywhere else in the body, and the chemo at that point is kind of like an insurance policy.”
The entire Orioles organization was hit hard by the news. Mancini is a popular player inside and outside of the clubhouse. He’s a hard-nosed leader who has embraced the Orioles’ rebuilding project.
Mancini has established himself as the face of the franchise and was the Orioles’ MVP in 2019 after leading the team in doubles (38), home runs (35), RBIs (97), extra-base hits (75), total bases (322), on-base percentage (.364), slugging (.535) and OPS (.899).
Mancini also ranked second among AL outfielders in extra-base hits and total bases, third in runs scored, tied for third in hits, fourth in doubles, fifth in multi-hit games, sixth in RBIs, seventh in home runs and eighth in OPS.
Orioles catcher Austin Wynns has been Mancini’s teammate and friend coming up through the minors and in the major leagues. Mancini was actually the first person Wynns met within the organization when he was drafted by the Orioles in the 10th round of the 2013 MLB Draft; Mancini was taken in the eighth round of the same draft. Both began their professional careers at Short Season-A Aberdeen.
Wynns acknowledged it’s been a challenging time given Mancini’s diagnosis and the COVID-19 pandemic wreaking havoc across the world.
“He’s like a brother to me. It was devastating hearing that news,” Wynns said. “But Trey’s a fighter, man. There’s a lot of people who have a lot of love for him. He’ll come through this.”
Orioles general manager Mike Elias echoed Wynns’ comments. He said it’s going to be tough for the Orioles to be without their “best player and a big heartbeat in our clubhouse.” However, Elias is confident Mancini will come back even better when fully healthy. The healing process is the main focus for now.
“You see him and you hear from him and he’s so upbeat, and you see his strength and his youth and his health, and we all know this is going to be a matter of time,” Elias said. “But it’s tough for our organization; it’s tough for our team. We’re going through a really tough period and now we’re going to be out for a while without our best player and a big heartbeat in our clubhouse.
“But he’s still going to be around and I think it’s going to make it all the more special when he gets back, and it’s going to mean a lot for us and the progress that we’re making as an organization when Trey Mancini comes back to us.”
Gary Kendall, who managed Mancini at Double-A Bowie from 2015-2016, also described him as a fighter and a leader by example. He remembers watching film of Mancini with then-hitting coach Keith Bodie and thinking: “If this guy [is] not a big-league hitter, then I don’t know what the hell I’m looking at.”
Kendall, now the manager of Triple-A Norfolk, said the news of Mancini’s diagnosis was a shock to everyone in the organization.
“What he’s going through right now is just very, very unfortunate,” Kendall said. “He’s a guy who is just embarking on his major-league career and then something so devastating comes into his life. But Trey is a strong-willed guy. The guys rallied around him and I know he’s going to fight through this and get through it.
“If anyone can get through this, Trey Mancini can.”
Mancini has also been able to take some lessons from his father, Tony Mancini, who was diagnosed with stage 2 colon cancer in 2011.
“It was tough to see him go through that experience but it definitely helped me,” Trey Mancini said. “He’s another person that obviously has been through this before, and luckily he didn’t have to go through chemo, but it was definitely tough on him for that month or so.
“He was in the hospital longer than I was and he had been through a few tough weeks himself, so having somebody like that, especially somebody that I was close with, really helped me, too, throughout all this. He’s been the biggest person I’ve leaned on throughout it all.”
Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox