When you hear veteran pitcher Alex Cobb talk about how confident he is that the team’s most popular and productive player will “beat” what he’s going through and come back stronger, it sounds both encouraging and ominous at the same time.
When rookie Austin Hays relates embracing Trey and telling him that he loves him and will be praying for him, you know how much the situation must be impacting the youngest players on the club and how much Mancini is revered in every corner of the clubhouse.
Clearly, this is one of those moments when anything else that happens around Ed Smith Stadium the rest of this month is going to seem pretty insignificant.
“Sometimes,” manager Brandon Hyde said Sunday, “things happen that make you open your eyes a little bit about what’s important.”
Still, the game goes on, and one of the most important roles that Hyde can play is a fatherly one, allowing the players to emotionally process what is happening off the field while helping them go about their business on it.
Not an easy assignment for a guy who is starting only his second season as a major league manager, but Hyde was brought in to develop that kind of relationship with a team full of developing players. It’s a role he obviously takes very seriously and he has already had individual conversations with several of the players while also staying in touch with Mancini.
“I just think when you’re in this role you never know what’s going to happen and what’s going to come to your desk on a day-to-day basis," Hyde said, “and there’s life that happens outside of baseball. These are young men, it’s a really great group of guys and Trey is an enormous part of our team and a huge face for this club and everybody loves him. So, when there’s setback, it hurts to not have him here.
“We’re just thinking about him and his well-being.”
That’s why there have been few questions about the impact of Mancini’s absence on the team as it prepares to start the season later this month … and few answers. When asked whether the Orioles have considered how they will replace Mancini on the 25-man Opening Day roster, Hyde answered with a simple “No.”
There will be plenty of time for that after the situation becomes better defined, but who really wants to ponder what this means for the outfielders on the bubble? This is about a young man in his prime who is facing a frightening personal challenge, one that Mancini and the team are not ready to specifically address.
“He’s going to go through a lot these next week, two weeks, mostly off-the-field emotional stuff," Cobb said. “I think he’s going to grow from all of it … grow closer to his family, his loved ones, appreciate certain things in life we just all take for granted each and every day.”
There really isn’t reason for anyone to view this story as more or less than that — a human one. Mancini is a fan favorite and will undoubtedly receive an outpouring of affection and support from the Orioles community. He’ll be able to feel all that love up close the next time he appears in front of a crowd at Camden Yards, but no one should give a whit right now about when he gets back into his O’s uniform.
This is a time for hope and prayers.