Trey Mancini and Mike Yastrzemski came up through the minor leagues dreaming of someday playing together at Camden Yards. This weekend, they’ll finally get to share that major league field, but they’ll wear different orange and black uniforms.
Mancini and Yastrzemski are both products of the Orioles’ 2013 draft, but while Mancini has spent the past three seasons in the majors, Yastrzemski’s big league debut didn’t come until Saturday as a member of the San Francisco Giants, the organization Baltimore traded him to at the end of spring training. This weekend’s series began Friday, with Yastrzemski batting second and playing left field for San Francisco, and marks the first time the Giants have visited Camden Yards since 2004. Mancini couldn’t be more grateful for the schedule working out that way.
“It’s gonna be surreal,” the Orioles’ first baseman said. “We always hoped that we’d be on the same team in the majors one day. But it’s a good consolation to play against Mike here. If I can’t be on his team, to play against him is gonna be really neat, too.”
Yastrzemski tripled in the first inning and then homered in the second inning in his Oriole Park debut.
Yastrzemski, the Orioles’ 2013 14th-round pick out of Vanderbilt, and Mancini, their eighth-round pick out of Notre Dame, played for the same minor league affiliate at some point every year from 2013-16, winning an Eastern League title with Double-A Bowie in 2015. They grew so close that Yastrzemski and his wife had no problem convincing Mancini to join them as Nashville residents. Mancini bought a house there this offseason.
But as Mancini became a central figure in the Orioles’ lineup, Yastrzemski struggled to push through onto the major league roster. With plenty of Triple-A outfielders and not enough at-bats to go around, the Orioles traded Yastrzemski to the Giants for right-hander Tyler Herb on March 23.
Two months later, after hitting .316/.414/.676 with 12 home runs for Triple-A Sacramento, the Giants called him up.
“It’s all a matter of timing,” Yastrzemski said. “Getting to the big leagues, yes, it’s based on performance, but it’s also about getting lucky and having an open spot. From my time with Orioles, it never really folded in that manner, and there’s been no hard feelings. It’s just the way the game works, and to be able to be moved to an organization that had a hole that needed to be filled, I’m just happy to get the opportunity.
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“It was definitely a dream to always be playing here. I guess it doesn’t really matter what side you’re playing on.”
His former teammates were happy, too. When the Orioles were in Denver to play the Colorado Rockies, many of them continually checked the clubhouse television to follow and celebrate Yastrzemski’s debut.
“He’s as professional as it gets,” Mancini said. “Mike’s always been a major leaguer, in my opinion, and I always knew he’d get there at some point, so it feels good that it finally happened officially this past weekend. He looks the part. He is the part. He’s a major league baseball player, and he plays the game the right way, he plays really hard, and I think all the fans in San Francisco are gonna see that really quick.”
Many of Mancini and Yastrzemski’s mutual friends from Nashville and some of Yastrzemski’s family will be in Baltimore for the series, though his grandfather, Hall of Famer Carl, is “not much of a traveler” and won’t attend. The elder Yastrzemski spent his entire 23-year career with the Boston Red Sox; the Giants visit Fenway Park in September.
Mancini has trouble imagining what that series could be like for his friend. Throughout their minor-league journey, they regularly played Red Sox affiliates and made other stops throughout the Northeast. The last name Yastrzemski always carried weight, but Mancini never saw it go to his teammate’s head.
“One time, there was a cab driver we had that started weeping that Carl Yastrzemski’s grandson was in his car,” Mancini said. “Mike handles it pretty well ’cause it can be overwhelming. I mean, the man’s a legend, but Mike’s made his own path.
“He’s made a name for himself. He’s worked really hard, played over 700 games in the minors and earned his way up here, and it’s most definitely not because of his last name. It’s ’cause he deserved it.”