Mancini, father share strong bond in baseball

May 27th, 2019

DENVER -- Tony Mancini's heroes growing up were Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris. But it was an admiration from afar; Mancini grew up in Florida and didn't have much of an opportunity to see those legendary Yankees play. Mancini had a love of baseball, but didn't play himself.

So when his wife, Beth, signed up their 4-year-old son for T-ball in 1996, he thought it would be great for him to play and learn about team sports. That was the extent of it.

"I never thought Trey would be a baseball player," Tony said. "I thought he would be a scientist or maybe go into medicine."

The latter occupation would have been fitting considering Tony is a doctor. But he didn't push his son in any specific direction, instead letting him find his own path and passion. Besides, there are a few prerequisites for becoming a doctor.

"He doesn't like the sight of blood," Tony said. "So he found another profession."

"I can't stand blood," Trey said. "He and my uncle, who I'm really close with, are both doctors. I mean, they said, 'Do it if you want. But if you're passionate about something else, just go for that. Because it's a high-stress job.' They love what they do. But it's not for everybody, and I decided early on it wasn't for me."

Trey would end up in another occupation some might characterize as high stress when factoring in the 95 to 100 mph fastballs thrown in your general direction from 60 feet and six inches away. And while his dad never played the game, his love for it was passed on through setting up a tee in front of the garage at their home in Winter Haven, Fla., with the object of the game being to hit the tennis ball over the bushes.

T-ball turned into Little League, and Little League turned into travel ball. On Saturday, Tony was sitting in the visitors’ dugout at Coors Field, watching his son go through pregame stretches before the Orioles played the Rockies. Several of the players' fathers had accompanied the club on this road trip, a tradition started last season, and coming three weeks ahead of Father's Day.

"Now we have the ultimate travel ball experience," Tony said.

There will always be something special about fathers and sons in baseball. The backgrounds are different. The stories are different. The paths are different. Some end in Little League. Some end in the Major Leagues. But it's an enduring theme of the national pastime.

In the Mancinis' case, that element is not lost with Trey constantly away during the season, traveling all over the country, perhaps not seeing his father as much as he'd like during that part of the year.

"Baseball's always been a father-son connection," Trey said. "You always played catch with your dad as a kid. They stayed in cheap motels with you across the country on travel teams. You sacrifice a lot of cool vacations you could be going on to kind of stay in some obscure location for baseball. All of our parents made huge sacrifices for all of us."

The father-son connection was poignant over the weekend in Colorado. Something special that Tony has always been sure to take in is whenever a youngster's eyes light up as Trey signs a baseball. He gets a photo on his phone when that scenario arises, and sends it home to Beth. Maybe it's because he never had that moment with Mantle or Maris, and now his son was giving it to someone else.

A small but energetic contingent of Orioles fans sat above and aside Baltimore's dugout in Denver, draped in the club's primary color of orange, which was even more vivid at a sun-drenched Coors Field. And Tony got to see that moment again.

As Trey continues to make his case to be the Orioles' representative at the All-Star Game in a few weeks, Tony doesn't want to get ahead of himself.

"I never say that," Tony said, referring to the word "All-Star."

But given the way things have gone since Trey was 4, the next father-son trip could be to Cleveland.