Orioles outfielder Trey Mancini noticed during spring training he was getting tired after a few swings.
“So I knew something was up, but I chalked it up to just getting older,” the 28-year-old said.
Blood samples taken near the start of camp showed Mancini’s iron levels were low, and team doctors asked him to take a second test. Mancini said he had just come down with the flu and figured it had something to do with that.
Then Mancini’s iron levels were even lower, so the team doctors said he should have an endoscopy and colonoscopy to see if he had a stomach ulcer or celiac disease. He never thought it would be colon cancer, a disease his dad had at 58.
“We just thought I was way too young for me to have it,” he said.
Mancini woke up from his anesthesia and the doctor eliminated all the possibilities with him and his girlfriend, Sara.
“My dad’s an ob-gyn. I’m familiar with the way doctors talk,” Mancini said. “I knew immediately that this was real.”
The doctor revealed they had found a malignant tumor.
Six days later, on March 12, Mancini underwent surgery in Baltimore to have the tumor removed. He revealed today in an essay for The Players Tribune, a sports site offering athletes a platform to share their stories in their own words, that his cancer is Stage III and he started chemotherapy earlier this month.
Treatments will go on for six months, meaning that if and when baseball starts during the coronavirus pandemic, Mancini won’t take the field. “But I want everybody to know that I’m O.K.,” Mancini wrote.
In fact, Mancini said he’s “lucky.”
“Honestly, I love the Orioles. Our team trainers have been so on top of everything. I am so appreciative for them, and also for the Orioles’ front office and ownership,” Mancini said. “They have treated me like family.”
Mancini, a mainstay in the Orioles lineup since 2017, goes on to trace his roots in Winter Haven, Florida, to his college playing days at Notre Dame.
He said an Orioles scout, Kirk Fredriksson, was one of the only people to believe in his potential as a pro.
“The tape of me in college was kind of goofy, honestly. It wasn’t great. I was a big, awkward, right-handed hitter, and I didn’t look too refined out in the field,” Mancini said. “But he really put his reputation on the line for me.”
Baltimore took Mancini in the eighth round of the 2013 amateur draft.
In the time since, he slowly worked his way up the ladder without much fanfare from national publications, eventually making his major league debut in September 2016 and memorably hitting a home run in his first game.
A sophomore slump, Mancini wrote in The Players Tribune, stemmed from a knee injury early in 2018, his second full season, when he slid into a wall in left field chasing after a foul ball.
“In hindsight, I should have gone on the DL. I had never missed time because of an injury, and I wanted to play no matter what,” he said. “But the truth was I was hurt way worse than I admitted.”
The pain meant he couldn’t put pressure on his right knee, throwing his whole swing out of whack. But he bounced back in 2019, hitting .291 with 35 home runs and 97 RBI.
Mancini said he was looking to build on that momentum with the 2020 season. But now he’s just hoping for baseball to start so he can hang out with his teammates in the dugout.
“I’ve got other things to worry about right now, though. I know that,” he said. “But still, every once in a while I catch myself thinking ahead — to when chemo is over, to when they remove my port, to when I can start going full-speed again.”
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