In the very early goings of his major league baseball career, Trey Mancini has already taken on an incredible amount of various roles.
Through his first 14 games, the young Oriole has already hit for average (14 hits in 41 at-bats) and power (seven home runs). He's worked as a first baseman, designated hitter, right fielder, left fielder and pinch hitter. He even spent a game as the team's leadoff batter.
But according to his former college coach, there's still another role Mancini could excel in at the big league level.
"[Orioles manager] Buck Showalter could tell him that he has to clean the bathrooms every single day to get playing time, and he'd be in there cleaning the bathrooms," Notre Dame baseball coach Mik Aoki said in a
Glenn Clark Radio interview
Mancini was already on the Fighting Irish roster when Aoki left Boston College to take over the Notre Dame program in 2011. Aoki had heard from an assistant that Mancini was a good hitter, but it wasn't enough for Aoki to fully jump on board immediately.
"The one mistake I made with Trey is that he didn't start his very first game of his college career," Aoki said. "That's probably the one mistake that I made, that he sat on the bench in his very first game. But I corrected that pretty quickly, and so he started every single other game, I think, along the way as long as he was healthy."
That decision paid off, as over the course of the next two seasons Mancini hit .320 with 21 home runs and 79 RBIs for the Irish in 107 games. The skill set that allowed him to work his way through the Orioles' system was on display quickly.
"The thing that I think I really came to appreciate is he's a really aggressive hitter," Aoki said. "So sometimes you can make him look bad early in a count, throw him a slider when he's looking for a fastball-type of a thing. But the thing that I really became appreciative of with him was the way that if a pitcher went back to that same well, they often times played a pretty severe price for it.
"It's just his pitch recognition and his ability to just make adjustments in the course of one at-bat was really, really impressive. And it was something that you had to see over a period of time to really, truly appreciate it."
As much as Mancini's baseball ability has carried him to a place where he's become Baltimore's newest baseball folk hero, his former coach believes his qualities as a human being have played an equal role.
"I believe really, really strongly that long-term success in anything you do is driven by the character of the person," Aoki said. "Trey comes from a great family; Beth and Tony are phenomenal people. His sisters are great kids, and Trey is just a terrific, terrific human being. I think that when he gets back to who and what he is -- he understands the hard work that goes into it, he understands that team-first mentality."
Yet Aoki warns those qualities shouldn't be taken for granted.
"I just know the type of kid that he is. He's a terrific kid. [But] I don't think that anyone should ever mistake how driven he is to be successful with what a nice kid he is," Aoki said. "If he goes into a little bit of a slump, he gets pretty ornery. But he's never going to let that be in the way of treating people the right way and making the right decisions, representing his family and the Orioles in the very best light that he can."
Mancini isn't the only former Notre Dame player the Orioles have drafted in recent years. Just a year after they took the slugger in the eighth round of the 2013 draft, the Birds selected his former teammate Pat Connaughton in the fourth round. The former Fighting Irish pitcher chose to continue pursuing a basketball career and is finishing his second season with the Portland TrailBlazers. The Birds maintain his baseball rights through 2020, however, and Connaughton has maintained that a return to baseball could be possible. Should he do that, Aoki believes he could be a difference-maker for the team.
"They would have another terrific kid," he said. "They would have another terrific competitor. And they would have a kid who it wouldn't surprise me, if at some point, he comes out of the back end of the bullpen throwing 100 miles per hour."
How quickly could Connaughton re-assimilate to the game?
"It would take him probably a little bit of time -- he still when he was leaving here he needed to clean some things up and be able to get in the strike zone a little bit more," Aoki said. "But he's one of those kids that has that 'it factor.' I remember watching him as a sophomore in high school at St. John's Prep (Massachusetts), and he walked the bases loaded and then proceeds to punch out the next three. He just has the ability to make the big pitch. He has that sort of quiet self confidence that he can do these things.
"I think the Orioles should be making every single effort to get Portland to not pick up his third year."
For more from Aoki, listen to the complete interview here: