Mancini salutes crowd, Mo after emotional inside-the-parker

As trade rumors swirl, O's veteran legs out improbable HR in potential final home at-bat

July 28th, 2022

BALTIMORE -- The unexpected has long found Trey Mancini. After he was drafted in 2013, he was shocked how much fans at then-Low A Aberdeen already found out about him. His first big league hit, a home run at Camden Yards, came in his second at-bat. (That occurred in 2016, when he later found himself on a postseason roster as a 24-year-old rookie.) Then for a year, he found himself outside baseball.

These experiences taught Mancini about life more than they taught him about baseball. They endeared him to a city that’s pridefully touted him as the face of their baseball franchise.

So maybe Thursday should have been expected.

With rumors swirling less than a week away from the Aug. 2 Trade Deadline, Mancini lofted an inside-the-park home run during what might have been his final home at-bat as an Oriole, padding Baltimore’s lead in the eighth inning of a 3-0 win over the Rays. The ball, sent sun-high into deep right field, glanced off the face of Rays outfielder Josh Lowe and skipped toward the corner just enough for Mancini to slide under the glove of catcher René Pinto, beating the throw home.

The standing ovation Mancini received approaching the box prior to his at-bat had morphed into another echelon of decibels this second time he was home.

“I mean,” Mancini said, “that was absolutely insane. … That was crazy. I'm kind of at a loss for words that that happened.”

Consider the emotions of Mancini, the biggest trade candidate on the Orioles’ roster in the final guaranteed year of his contract, playing in perhaps his final game as an Oriole at Camden Yards although voicing desires to remain. And then consider Thursday’s other backdrop.

It was the inaugural Mo Gaba Day at Camden Yards, honoring the Orioles’ late superfan and their ever-positive “10th man,” who passed away from a long battle with cancer two years ago to the day. Mancini shared a special relationship with Mo even before he himself was diagnosed with colon cancer after a routine health screening in Spring Training of 2020. That bond helped Mancini better appreciate Mo’s unending positivity. On Thursday, Mancini caught the ceremonial first pitch from Mo’s mother, Sonsy.

Mancini has homered on both anniversaries of Gaba’s death. But this year was different.

“I had some help,” said Mancini, wearing a “#MoStrong” T-shirt in front of a Mo Gaba bobblehead atop his locker. “I had some help from somebody.”

Lowe was no worse for wear, sporting just a welt on his cheek and embarrassment from the play. He was battling the elements -- both atmospheric and supernatural -- having lost the ball in the sun.

“There isn’t a whole lot a person can do to beat the sun,” said Rays second baseman Brandon Lowe.

“Lost in the sun,” said Orioles manager Brandon Hyde, “or lost somewhere in the air.”

Two thoughts raced through Mancini’s head as he raced around the bases. The first was that he hoped his ball would be ruled a hit. The second, from a self-described slow, “plump” young kid: “You gotta get home on this.”

Hays, racing home from second base, was begging Mancini to go for it as he waved his arm rounding third. The 16,784 fans at Camden Yards agreed. After Mancini returned to the dugout and donned the Home Run Chain at the behest of Ryan McKenna, he had to cool down in the tunnel.

The “Trey Man-ci-ni!” chants broke out. He didn’t hear them. Tyler Nevin came down to find him and alert him of the beckoning for a curtain call, as Mancini now owned the first inside-the-parker at Oriole Park since Robert Andino on Sept. 26, 2011.

Mancini obliged, touching his chest, waving and blowing kisses to the fans surrounding his dugout. He’s not sure how many more chances he’ll have for them in Baltimore, as much as he’d like them.

“I mean, I hope I get to stick around and then still be a part of this team,” Mancini said. “But I understand how the business works and I don't really have a say in it. I'm just gonna go out there every day and keep playing for this team and the name across my chest, because I love this city and the team, and I love these guys in here. It's just been such a fun year.”

There’s no guarantee Mancini is moved before the Trade Deadline, with various contenders rumored to be in on him. If the Orioles deem themselves contenders, they may very well hold onto him. Though he said he approached these final home games with nostalgia “just in case,” Mancini and the clubhouse are doing their best to avoid external noise.

“I'd like to manage him for the next 10 years,” Hyde said. “ … Who knows what's going to happen. But I think the fans, that was really cool, the ovation they gave him and saying thank you for the great years he's had here. We'll see what happens. I don't think anybody knows. But Trey appreciated it, and what a way to go out, if he's going out."

But baseball is unpredictable. Just like it was on this Thursday afternoon in Baltimore. Just like Mancini has long learned.

“Baseball, man,” said starter Jordan Lyles. "No one else deserves it more than him. Great person. Great teammate. Baltimore, if this is it, they have been very lucky to have him.”