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Trey Mancini went through his share of struggles at the plate in 2022, especially after he was dealt from the Orioles to the Astros at the trade deadline. Still, his time in Houston ended with Mancini becoming a World Series champion for the first time.
He’ll bring that knowledge to the Cubs this season after signing a two-year deal with the club in January. Mancini, though, doesn’t only bring along championship experience. He has a different perspective on the game as a colon cancer survivor, an enormous obstacle he overcame to eventually be named the 2021 American League Comeback Player of the Year.
And now, Mancini is looking for a rebound year, this time in Chicago.
In a sit-down interview with CHGO at Cubs spring training in Mesa, Ariz., Mancini discussed a variety of topics ranging from learning about his new team to his takeaways from 2022 to how he can get back to being the hitter he wants to be.
This Q&A has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
How has the early part of spring training gone for you?
It’s been great. It’s my first spring training being on a team other than the Orioles actually. First experience on a new team other than getting traded last year, but it’s been incredible. Everybody’s made me feel at home from the start. I’m getting along with the guys great, and the staff has been incredible. I can’t say enough.
What have you thought of all the additions the Cubs made this winter?
It’s been excellent. There’ve been a lot of excellent additions, and it’s great to be a part of that. I noticed what the Cubs did in the offseason, even before I signed, and to be added to that group at the end was an honor, because these guys are all total pros and have been around for a long time. It’s been such a great group.
What was it like to make that World Series run with the Astros?
It was incredible. That’s another team that really took me in with open arms right when I got there and made me feel at home. I’m really thankful for my experience there. Getting to go through a playoff run and winning the World Series was incredible. It’s why we all play the game. So, to be able to experience that was a dream come true.
What was your biggest takeaway from your time in that organization?
Those guys are so confident and so sure of themselves, and it rubs off on you. Even when you’re struggling, which I did offensively after my first few weeks there. I had kind of a rougher time offensively, but at the same time, it got me ready to come into any spot, especially during the playoffs. We all were on the same page. The moment isn’t too big for anybody there, and that rubs off on you big time.
What was the experience at the trade deadline like for you?
I wasn’t sure if I was going to get traded or not, because we were playing some really good baseball in Baltimore. We’d just had a 10-game winning streak and were really trending up. It was definitely bittersweet at the moment, but something again that I’m thankful for, that I got to experience the playoffs and the World Series. But yeah, I’d been in Baltimore for a long time, and I was kind of one of the team leaders there and was the most tenured player. So, it was tough to leave in a way, as far as leaving the guys. I had gotten so close with so many guys on the team, but I go to Houston and, again, felt so welcomed and got really close with all them really quickly. It was great to experience kind of both sides there.
How tough was it to leave Baltimore?
I had such a strong connection with the city there, and the fans especially. I just always felt this special bond with them. They always really embraced me. I wasn’t somebody that was a high draft pick or the biggest prospect or anything like that, but they always embraced me from the beginning of my career. Always felt such a good connection with them, and with both regimes. The regime that drafted me: [general manager] Dan Duquette, and Buck Showalter was the manager. And then [executive vice president/general manager] Mike Elias came in, and Brandon Hyde was the manager. I was close with them and had a great relationship with them, too. I just felt so lucky, because I got to be around a lot of great people. That hasn’t changed at all, even as I moved on from the Orioles. Baseball is a great game because of the people you meet. It’s been great getting to meet a lot of different people from a lot of different places.
What was the Cubs’ pitch to convince you to sign?
I took notice before I even signed with what they were doing, the direction the team was going, and it just seemed like a fun group to be around. I didn’t even have to, I’d say, be pitched or anything like that. Who doesn’t want to be a Chicago Cub? So, what an opportunity, what a team to play for, what a city to play for. I have a lot of family connections and friend connections in Chicago, too, so it’s going to be really neat to play there.
What did you work on this offseason to help you bounce back?
I was kind of out of sorts there, searching a little bit too much. Not a place you want to be when you’re a hitter. So, I just want to get back to thinking less, being relaxed at the plate. That’s the name of the game for me. I just got to feel like I’m kind of just chilling and hanging out up at the plate. It’s just about having as little go through your head as possible. So, it’s just simplifying and working to the middle of the field, not thinking too big. I want to kind of have that right-center gap in my head every time that I’m up there, and adjusting to anything else.
Did that new left-field wall in Baltimore affect your game?
It was no secret that I wasn’t a fan of it. I let that be known last year. But as a player, you can’t let that affect you as a hitter. It is what it is. The wall got moved back. It stinks. [Orioles first baseman Ryan] Mountcastle and I didn’t love it last year, but it helped the team out. It helped the pitchers out a lot. It really changed the dynamic of playing at Camden Yards. It went from a hitter’s park to a big-time pitcher’s park, and it boded well for the team last year. But yeah, it was a big change. It was a big change.
What’s it been like working with new Cubs hitting coach Dustin Kelly?
It’s been incredible. He and [assistant hitting coach Johnny Washington] both I feel like already knew who we all kind of were before we got here. They definitely did their homework. They’re so good about letting us be us, and especially as an older guy, you know what makes you successful. You just communicate that to them, and they really help you get there. They know the cues that we all like when we hit. They’re just always so approachable, ready to work and willing to help you out in any way. So, it’s been great.
What do you want to accomplish over the next few weeks?
I’m looking to go and really be a huge contributor for this team. It’s just preparing every day, doing little things. As you get older, you know you don’t have to go 100 miles an hour from from Day 1. You can kind of feel it out and ramp it up as spring goes on. So, that’s going to kind of teach you what you need to work on. It’s just all the feels at the plate that you have, good and bad. You just want to kind of take notes and make the adjustments accordingly.
What’s your favorite part of Chicago?
Oh my gosh, I’ve been to Chicago a million times. When I was younger, I used to go. A lot of my friends used to live there. We’d go out in Old Town sometimes. I remember there was a bar we used to go to called Stanley’s, but I think it got shut down. That was a good place, but I don’t know why it closed down.
How would you describe yourself to Cubs fans who don’t know Trey Mancini?
I’m going to put it all on the line. I play hard, and I want to win every day and expect a lot out of myself. I’m going to give it my all every day.
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