It was a big deal, even if Trey Mancini didn’t realize it at first.
During Tuesday’s media availability, Mancini earnestly answered every question thrown at him. He was prepared to talk about the team’s expectations (or lack thereof) entering 2019, the new faces in the clubhouse, the coaching staff’s application of analystics, and the dog days of spring.
The question he wasn’t expecting? How he felt taking over Adam Jones’ old locker.
“Yeah, I forgot exactly which one it was,” Mancini said while chuckling with reporters. “You know, I think it could be a coincidence, I’m not sure.”
It’s no coincidence, though. Through circumstance, Mancini is already one of the team’s elder statesmen, and at 27 years old, he’s viewed as a leader. As he points out himself, the core led by Jones turned around the franchise, and taking over the locker of the face of the franchise for the last decade has meaning within the organization.
The newly-appointed veteran was quick to recognize that significance.
“It’s an honor,” Mancini continued. “Especially somebody like that who, words can’t really describe what he meant to this city and this organization and all the fans around here, so I’m certainly no Adam Jones, and I’m not trying to be. But I’m definitely trying to do my best to be a leader on the team and be somebody that the community can look up to as well.”
Expected or not, it’s a role that’s been thrust upon Mancini, just a few short years after being a fresh face in the locker room himself. If you ask him, he’s up to the challenge.
“Yeah it was pretty quick,” he said while reflecting on already being seen as a veteran. “You know life can come at you fast sometimes, and it definitely did or me. But I’m ready for it.”
The young players on the team are just as interested in picking Mancini’s brain as he is in guiding them. Drew Jackson, one of two Rule 5 Draft selections to made the Opening Day roster, listed Mancini among the veterans who have helped the new faces.
“Oh yeah, all the guys,” Jackson responded when asked about veteran leadership. “CD [Chris Davis] was next to me, so I got a lot from him. And Trey, and Joey [Rickard], [Andrew] Cash[ner], everyone man. [Mark] Trumbo down in Sarasota, all helping us out, so it’s been really special to learn from them and get whatever I can going into my first season.”
Of that group, Davis, Trumbo and Cashner have all been around the game for a long time, and Rickard is a former Rule 5 draft selection himself. Mancini is the odd man out, yet has been just as active in his leadership role.
While he’s willing to be a vocal leader, Mancini seems more interested in acting as a role model, something he took from his locker’s previous tenant.
“More by example,” Mancini answered when asked what he learned from Jones, Manny Machado and Buck Showalter. “I just watched the way that they went about their business, you know they’ve been doing this for a while, so I just kind of took some notes on how they carried themselves and things like that. You try to instill that on the younger guys too.”
The young players’ willingness to work hard at all times gives Mancini optimism for the team, both in the future and the present.
“We played hard all spring,” the young slugger said. “You kind of get to the dog days of spring towards the end, and that never really happened to us. I can confidently say that, so I’m really excited about this group and to get the season rolling here.”
Everyone who spoke Tuesday mentioned the team’s desire to compete in 2019. That attitude comes partially from GM Mike Elias and Brandon Hyde, the rookie manager. But it also has to stem from the players themselves. For Mancini, it’s an obvious, and necessary, perspective.
“I mean we’re not putting any win totals or anything like that out there,” Mancini said while addressing lower expectations from national experts. “We’re going to go out and expect to win every game we play, and if that’s not your mindset at this level, then you should probably find a different line of work. Because no matter what state your organization is in, whether you’re expected to be a World Series contender or people are predicting otherwise, you go out and play like you can win every single game.”
Elias spoke of veterans needing to guide the younger players, and both Mancini and Cashner agreed.
“There’s definitely some younger guys in here that are going to need to find their way,” the Orioles Opening Day starter explained. “There’s definitely going to be ups and downs, and hopefully some of the older guys in here can pick them up when they’re down and hopefully we can gel as a team.”
Mancini may not have anticipated rising to the status of grizzled veteran so soon, but he’s happy to embrace the role. He’s adamant that he didn’t campaign for Jones’ old locker, much like he didn’t campaign to be a leader on the roster.
Both were thrust upon him, and he’s prepared for the responsibility that comes with it.
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