Late in the season, Trey Mancini lined a single through the infield and clapped his hands once he reached first base.
The Orioles were already staring down the barrel of the worst season in franchise history, but that didn't temper Mancini's enthusiasm.
As the Orioles begin to rebuild the franchise with a new general manager and manager, Mancini will remain a vital part of the process moving forward.
"Trey is just such a grinder. Trey is a winning player," former Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "He understands the grind and he embraces it. That's why guys like him -- [in] the situation we're in -- do well because they embrace the things that separate you. Whether he's hitting .290 or .240, he's always going to be engaged in the competition."
Mancini struggled throughout parts of the 2018 season, but he finished strong. He finished the year batting .242 and tied with former Orioles shortstop Manny Machado for the club lead in home runs (24). Mancini also had 58 RBIs and led the team with three triples. His 141 hits were second behind outfielder Adam Jones.
He was the consummate solid teammate throughout the Orioles' struggles this season.
"We all want to go out every day and do well for the team first, and then on a personal level you want to go out and get results that you worked hard for," Mancini said.
Mancini showed he can battle through adversity after batting just .216 at the All-Star break. It was a far cry from the player who finished third in voting for the American League Rookie of the Year in 2017.
However, Mancini worked in the batting cage and focused more on driving the ball. As a result, he became a key contributor during the second half of the season.
"He's one of those rare guys that's done it at every level, and one of the things you get from that when you have a little tough spell, you know what you're capable of," Showalter said. "He's always on. You know what you're going to get from him every game. He's a real trustworthy guy."
While some players might have sulked with the struggles at the plate and number of losses continuing to pile up, Mancini stayed focused. He moved around the lineup and split time in the outfield and at first base when struggling first baseman Chris Davis was benched and veteran outfielder/designated hitter Mark Trumbo was lost for the season with a knee injury.
Next year, there are questions as to what position Mancini might play.
The Orioles have several young outfielders who will be pushing for playing time in 2019. That group includes Cedric Mullins, DJ Stewart, Joey Rickard, John Andreoli, Austin Hays and Anthony Santander. This means Mancini could benefit most at first base, but Davis' massive contract means he will likely get an opportunity to rebound from the .168 batting average he posted in 2018, the lowest mark by a qualifying hitter in major league history.
However, the Orioles will certainly find a place for Mancini in the everyday lineup, whether in the outfield, first base or perhaps some times as a designated hitter. Mancini has shown he is willing to do what is best for the team, and he is fully focused on winning games.
"There's a pride factor and a professionalism that goes into it," Mancini said. "You don't lay down any game, no matter who you're playing. You want to go out and put your best foot forward and try to win."
The Orioles selected Mancini from Notre Dame in the eighth round of the 2013 MLB Draft. In 2015, he split time between Single-A Frederick and Double-A Bowie, batting a combined .341 with 21 home runs, 89 RBIs and 43 doubles during 136 games.
After playing well at Triple-A Norfolk, Mancini made his major league debut with the Orioles Sept. 20, 2016. His first career hit was a home run, a solo shot off Boston Red Sox lefty Eduardo Rodríguez. Mancini energized the club and finished his first week in the majors batting .455 (5-for-11). He also hit three home runs during that stretch, joining Trevor Story (Colorado Rockies) and Carlos Quentin (Arizona Diamondbacks) as the only players with home runs during each of their first three starts, according to research by STATS LLC.
Mancini's experience in the minors and ability to quickly adjust to major league pitching should serve as a model to the younger players in the organization. Even though he is just 26 years old, Mancini is clearly one of the leaders of the club.
That is a role that he is fully ready to embrace.
"I think every year, you're a little more experienced, you get a little more comfortable, I guess," Mancini said. "You know all the guys really well, and you know how the camp works and everything like that. It's great just coming back out here and getting back out there with everybody."
The Orioles will need Mancini to be a mentor during the rebuilding phase, especially with the veteran Jones likely to hit the free-agent market. Mancini valued the experience playing next to Jones, a five-time All-Star.
He knows there will be a tremendous void if Jones departs.
"He's been here since 2008," Mancini said. "That's a long time. I was a sophomore in high school that year. That just goes to show how long he's been playing here. I never really played varsity baseball before Adam Jones was playing in Baltimore, so it's pretty cool that he's been playing for one team that long.
"I think it's hard to really put into words what he means to the community here, too. You can see it. Everybody loves him. You hear it every game. The fans, he just means so much to them, and it's really cool to see. And it's been a privilege to be around him and play with him."
Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox
Issue 248: October 2018
Originally published Oct. 15, 2018