By now you've heard about Trey Mancini's prodigious home-run hitting, tying a major league record with eight home runs in his first 17 games. You probably saw Mancini's mom enthusiastically cheering for her son last year, when he hit his first home run after an unexpected mid-September callup from Triple-A Norfolk.
The 25-year-old Mancini, who hadn't played the outfield as a professional, quickly adapted to it when the Orioles played him there in early March. Barely a week after playing right field for the first time in a major league game, manager Buck Showalter directed him to play left field for the first time, in Fenway Park, no less. In the minors, Mancini was a first baseman.
"It's a process," Showalter said. "I'm real proud of him and the way that we've been able to kind of give him playing time. We've had more left-handed starters against us than any time I've been here. … We felt like, coming out of spring, we'd face a lot of left-handed starters, and there would be at-bats for him. And it's kind of evolved from there. He's not just a left-on-right guy."
Showalter knows there are lots of challenges for Mancini. Being in the big leagues is a challenge in itself, much less learning two outfield positions.
"Trey doesn't look at it as an excuse to fail," Showalter said. "He looks at it like, ‘Here's a chance that I can carve a little niche and stay.'
"He's done well. I just like the way he goes about it. He's gotten better and better. He's getting a lot of reps, a lot of challenges out there."
No, the right-handed power hitter isn't just a player who hits against lefties. Mancini is a most interesting young man with a fascinating background.
His father, also named Joseph Anthony Mancini, is an OB-GYN in Winter Haven, Fla.
Before he settled on baseball, Mancini did consider becoming a physician.
"For a second," Mancini said. "My dad and uncle were both doctors, and they said, ‘I'd 100 percent pursue baseball if I were you. I think it would be a good life choice because there's a lot of stress that comes with the job.'
"It's a lot of school. After college was over, I was pretty set on the amount of schooling I had had. I don't know if I wanted it to be too much more. It was a pretty easy choice not to be a doctor."
Instead, Mancini was the Orioles' eighth-round pick in the June 2013 draft out of Notre Dame.
Even though a few major leaguers, most notably San Francisco Giants right-hander Jeff Samardzija and Arizona outfielder A.J. Pollock, have played at Notre Dame, the Fighting Irish aren't known as a baseball power.
At 6-foot-4, Mancini looks the part of an athlete, but he was never noticed as one walking around the South Bend, Ind., campus.
"In high school, our baseball team was known as our best team," Mancini said. "At Notre Dame, we had a very good team, but there are so many sports. All of our teams are so competitive. Football kind of dominates the landscape, so baseball can sometimes be seen a little bit in the background. It was still great. It was the best experience of my life at Notre Dame. I love that school more than anything."
It wasn't hard not being a Big Man on Campus.
"Only people that know you personally know that you play baseball," Mancini said. "It's not like you walk around campus and everybody would guess that. With the football players, it's like that a little more."
Even though Mancini looks as if he could have been a quarterback or wide receiver, he never played football growing up in Florida, a state mad about all levels of the game.
"I played tennis growing up," he said. "I would have played tennis if it was in a different season than baseball. When I was 14, I was a really good tennis player, but I stopped playing when I got to high school and committed to baseball."
The Orioles have an outstanding tennis player in shortstop J.J. Hardy. Mancini laughs when he's asked if he could hang with Hardy on the tennis court.
"I completely lost it," Mancini said. "I still play tennis some in the offseason. My 14-year-old self would beat me now 6-0, 6-0."
Mancini left school after his junior year in college to play professional ball, but he finished his degree in political science in the fall semesters of 2014 and 2015.
"It's a challenge. You have to balance your schoolwork with your athletics," Mancini said. "We had so many practices, and it takes up a lot of your time, but you have to find a balance between that. Having a social life outside of that is important too in college. It's a very challenging place. You have to learn how to balance that."
There aren't many major league players with degrees from four-year colleges and fewer with degrees in political science. But don't think Mancini is some policy wonk because of his major. He swears he doesn't closely follow the happenings in Washington, D.C.
"Honestly, not much at all," he said. "I did it more because I really like history, and I was at a crossroads what to do academically. Political science kind of interested me the most out of everything, but I'm not really that into politics now -- I'd say since I'm not taking classes any more. I'm probably not into it as much as I should be. I started in the business school, and I wasn't interested in it at all, so I switched to political science."
One of Mancini's teammates at Notre Dame was Pat Connaughton, who was drafted as a pitcher by the Orioles in 2014 but hasn't played baseball since. Connaughton has been with the NBA's Portland Trail Blazers for the last two seasons. Mancini is hoping they'll be teammates again with the Orioles.
"There's definitely a chance. I don't know exactly what his situation is," Mancini said. "He loves basketball and baseball. He can take his career two ways right now. He'll take some time to decide what to do. I have no doubt in my mind he'll be back and playing baseball at some point, but I just don't know when that is exactly."
Mancini knows about hectic schedules and fitting things in. Despite the rigorous and unpredictable schedule of a physician, his father got to see his son play many games.
"He had to miss some, but he was at every game that he could be. The large majority he was at. Both of [my parents] were truly supportive through the years playing baseball and stuff," Mancini said.
He got to see his father at work during his games, too.
"Whenever my dad was at my games growing up, [if] somebody got hit by a pitch or a pitcher got hit by a comebacker, my dad would be the one [to] inspect and see if there was an injury, see if there was anything serious," Mancini said.
"They'd ask him what kind of a doctor he was, and he'd say OB-GYN, and they were laughing that he was looking at 8-year-old kids that got hit by a pitch to see if they were hurt -- just because it's not really his expertise. He was always like the team doctor for both teams at the games when I was growing up."
Issue 233: May 2017