Baltimore rallies behind Mancini after diagnosis

April 30th, 2020

The first call came the night of Trey Mancini’s surgery, or maybe the day after. Those days are a little hazy for the Orioles star, who had a malignant tumor removed from his colon the day baseball was shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic. But he’ll never forget who was on the other line.

Brooks Robinson.

The other call came after news of Mancini’s condition became public, around the time he’d been informed the cancer had spread to three of his lymph nodes, resulting in a Stage 3 diagnosis. That one came from Mo Gaba, the 13-year-old Baltimore sports superfan with whom Mancini has developed a friendship with over the past few years.

“It’s been really overwhelming,” Mancini said this week of the support he’s received, speaking publicly about his condition for the first time. “But those two really stood out to me.”

As he embarked on a six-month slate of chemotherapy treatment this month largely in isolation due to COVID-19 concerns, Mancini has resolved to tackle his cancer fight with pragmatism and a positive outlook. He titled The Players' Tribune essay he used to detail his condition “I Am So Lucky,” and repeatedly expressed that sentiment on Wednesday during a subsequent conference call with reporters.

Mancini said he considers himself fortunate -- to have caught his cancer as early as he did, to have access to the medical treatment provided to professional athletes and for the outpouring of support from friends, family, fans and strangers he’s received from both inside and outside of sports circles.

Asked about individuals he’s leaned on during this time, Mancini pointed to several colon cancer survivors, including his father, Tony, who was diagnosed as a 58-year-old in 2011. Trey called his father “the biggest person I’ve leaned on through this all.”

He also specifically singled out the calls from Robinson and Gaba as being particularly meaningful. Together, they speak to Mancini’s stature amid the Baltimore sports landscape and the strength of the relationships he’s garnered during his brief MLB career.

A special advisor and community liaison to the club, the 82-year-old Robinson has been a fan of Mancini since returning to take a more active role with the Orioles in 2018. He appeared on social media and at games campaigning for Mancini to make the All-Star Game last summer. Mancini called Robinson “an absolute legend in Baltimore” in his The Players' Tribune essay.

“We spoke for a good 10-15 minutes,” Mancini said of Robinson. “He’s one of the best people I’ve ever come across in the baseball world and I’m honored to know him.”

Mancini befriended Gaba, who is blind and battling cancer for the fourth time, in the summer of 2017. They spent a day together during the '18 All-Star break and speak routinely. This past December, Mancini succeeded Adam Jones as host of the annual Purple Tailgate before a Ravens-49ers game, an appointment that spoke to his exalted status as one of Baltimore’s biggest stars. All the proceeds from the fundraiser went to Gaba’s cancer treatment.

Mancini said Gaba was “really concerned and sad” to hear he was battling cancer, too.

“It always strikes a chord whenever you talk to him. For him to be worried was really touching,” Mancini said. “It goes to show the kind of kid he is, and how special he is and how special he is to all of us who play on the Orioles and Ravens and the whole city.”