3 years on, no slowing Mancini's advocacy for cancer awareness

Free agent to be honored at December fundraiser in Washington, D.C.

November 28th, 2023

Even as he was undergoing biweekly chemotherapy sessions in the midst of a pandemic, was planning to be an advocate for colorectal cancer education and awareness.

He wasn’t just going to endure his six months of treatment and then turn his focus back to getting in baseball shape in order to reach his goal of taking the field with the Orioles on Opening Day 2021.

“Whenever I was going through it three years ago,” Mancini said in a recent interview with MLB.com, “I made a promise to myself and to others that I'd always help raise awareness in any way that I could, during my battle and after. As the years go by, it never leaves you, how lucky you are to still be alive. You go back to your life [after treatment], but at the same time, you want to do whatever you can to help others going through what you went through.”

In June 2020, he partnered with the Colorectal Cancer Alliance, the leading nonprofit working to end colorectal cancer. On Saturday, he’ll be honored at the organization’s Blue Hope Bash in Washington, D.C., with the Blue Star Award, given to those who display, in the words of the nonprofit, “conviction and unwavering dedication to the Alliance’s mission.” The annual gala helps raise money for screening, support and research to fight the second-deadliest cancer in America.

“It means a lot to be awarded this … but for the rest of my life, it's something that is always going to be part of me,” he said. “And events like this can help raise awareness. It's a disease that isn't going away. Even though I had it a few years ago, I still find it to be my mission to help others, and accepting this award is a part of that.”

That Mancini linked up with the Alliance just a few months into his treatment is a testament to the organization’s mission and outreach.

“What helped me more than absolutely anything was talking to others that had had colon cancer before me,” he said. “I had met a lot of people through the Alliance. What helped me get through it was talking to people that had been through it and survived it, because it’s scary.

“And I knew, given my line of work, that I could have an impact on people like they had on me.”

Mancini was diagnosed with Stage 3 colon cancer in March 2020, just a few weeks before his 28th birthday, after the results of a blood test raised alarm among the Orioles’ training staff. Though doctors recommend that adults begin regular screening at the age of 45, the occurrence of colorectal cancer in patients under 50 – considered young-onset colorectal cancer – is rising about 2 percent a year. According to the Alliance, researchers predict that it will be the leading cause of cancer deaths in the 20-49 age group by the year 2030.

“The sad reality [is] that diagnoses among those under 50 are on the rise, and our younger population is being misdiagnosed or their symptoms overlooked in the exam room,” Michael Sapienza, CEO of the Colorectal Cancer Alliance, said when Mancini aligned with the organization. “Trey's willingness to share his story and use his platform to advocate and bring awareness will go a long way in saving lives.”

Mancini hopes that his platform continues to be that of a Major League roster. After playing 79 games with the Cubs in 2023, he was released in August and spent a week with the Reds’ Triple-A Louisville affiliate. He’s now a free agent, keeping an eye on the Hot Stove.

“I’m not in a rush, I would say. Just letting it play out,” he said. “I think there will be some options and I'm looking forward to seeing how it plays out.”

Wherever he ends up, he’ll continue to advocate for funding and research to fight colorectal cancer and be a sounding board for those going through the treatment he endured three years ago.

“At the time, I would have given up anything just to have been guaranteed a clean bill of health from there on out,” Mancini said. “So talking to those people helped me more than I can even say. I know, [from] going through it, what it meant to me to talk to others who had been through it. I want to give people that same encouragement that I received.”