When Trey Mancini steps into the batter's box Coors Field for the Home Run Derby in July, he will have his first chance to perform on a national stage since beating cancer a little under a year ago.
Playing for the rebuilding Orioles, Mancini has flown under the radar for much of the season despite slugging 14 home runs with 52 RBIs over his first 77 games. However, the Derby will finally give the leading candidate for Comeback Player of the Year his moment to send a message to those who are going through the same thing he did.
“When you’re asked to compete in the Home Run Derby, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing so it’s something that I jumped on and of course I want to do it,” Mancini said Tuesday on a Zoom call. “It brings in a huge audience that might not know who I am or my story that much. The biggest reason why I wanted to do it was to show people that there is life after a cancer diagnosis and chemotherapy.”
Before the coronavirus pandemic forced MLB to pause spring training and shorten the 2020 season, a routine physical led to Mancini being diagnosed with Stage 3 colon cancer. He underwent surgery just days before his 28th birthday and was forced to endure 12 chemotherapy treatments over the following four months.
Now, Mancini is back contributing for the Orioles and playing as well as he ever has. Only 12 other players have as many home runs and RBIs as the first baseman. One is Los Angeles Angels two-way phenom Shohei Ohtani, who is the only other known AL participant to publicly announce his decision to compete in the derby.
“I never ever, ever expected to be in it or have the opportunity,” Mancini said. “Down the line 10 years from now, I don’t want to look back and wish that I did the Home Run Derby and instead opted for a couple days of rest. I feel good physically, I don’t really feel like I need the full four days so…it was a pretty easy decision.”
This won’t be the first time Mancini has competed in a home run contest. He won the Big East conference derby while playing for Notre Dame in college. His pitcher was Fighting Irish pitching coach Chuck Ristano, who will be on the mound for him in Denver as well after Mancini fulfilled a promise to him by asking the coach to join him for the derby.