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Trey Mancini hopes to return to Orioles in 2022, but if not, ‘he’s happy with what he left in Baltimore’

As the Orioles’ designated hitter for the team’s home finale last month, Trey Mancini spent some of his time between at-bats gazing around Camden Yards, searching for glimpses of the ballpark he might have somehow missed over the past five years.

As a player entering his final year of salary arbitration before reaching free agency, Mancini is a logical trade candidate for an Orioles team that doesn’t appear as if it will be approaching contention in 2022. Throughout the season, Mancini has reiterated how much he loves Baltimore and how he doesn’t think his tenure here is over yet. He did so after the Orioles’ last home game before this year’s trade deadline and again as he prepared for the final series of the season in Toronto.

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That mindset didn’t prevent him from savoring the season’s final game at Camden Yards, taking in what might have been his last as a member of the Orioles.

“I was just looking around at everything, but I think I had everything covered,” Mancini said. “I know every crevice of that stadium.”

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Mancini, 29, is the longest-tenured member of the Orioles’ roster by a wide margin, the lone holdover from their most recent playoff appearance in 2016. He made his debut late in that season as the club pushed for a wild-card spot, then finished third in American League Rookie of the Year voting in 2017. After struggling for much of 2018, he broke out the next season, narrowly missing an All-Star selection while earning Most Valuable Oriole honors after hitting 35 home runs with an .899 OPS.

But he missed all of 2020 undergoing treatments for stage 3 colon cancer. He made an impressive comeback in 2021, and although it tapered off in the final couple of months, he proved to himself — and perhaps, interested organizations — that he remains capable of playing at a high level.

Executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias said after the trade deadline he hoped Mancini would be “here as long as possible,” but reiterated in his end-of-season session that the Orioles wouldn’t be doing their job if they weren’t listening to offers from other teams. It’s possible Mancini and the Orioles agree on a contract extension, but otherwise, he’ll spend 2022 as a pending free agent, the type of player Elias has frequently dealt while leading the club’s front office.

“I have zero idea of what’s going to happen,” Mancini said. “I feel like I’ll be back, and I love it here, but in baseball, you have absolutely no idea what’s gonna happen.”

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On the final day of September, in Baltimore’s last home game, Mancini singled in the sixth to spark a three-run rally that led to a victory against the Boston Red Sox. Before the Orioles left to head to Toronto, he and girlfriend Sara Perlman took a photo on the field, something to mark the occasion in case it was his final home game there. The night before, they opened a bottle of Dom Perignon rosé champagne, celebrating the season and the anniversary of Mancini’s final chemotherapy treatment the week before. They have been tame with marking milestones.

“We both didn’t want to focus too much on it,” Perlman said. “It was more like, this is one year, and I look forward to having 10 years and 20 years and 30 years.”

Mancini knows how quickly those years can fly by, just as his five with Baltimore have. When he arrived late in the 2016 season on a playoff team, he believed he would be part of one each year. The Orioles contended until late in 2017, but a collapse meant that became the first of what is now five straight losing seasons.

“I’ve been there for some good times, and I’ve been there for some — mostly — tough times,” Mancini said. “But even with that being said, I wouldn’t trade any of it for the world.

“Baseball for me, my whole life, has always been about the relationships. Just playing with the guys every night, no matter what your record might be or what you’re playing for, it’s special.”

Those relationships have extended beyond those with his teammates. In the wake of his diagnosis, he quickly became an ambassador for the Colorectal Cancer Alliance, joining the organization’s “Never Too Young” advisory board. Through his eponymous foundation, he partnered with the Orioles and Blessings in a Backpack to host a July drive at Oriole Park that raised $2,800 and more than 1,000 pounds of food for Baltimore area children.

Mancini’s work in the community led to his selection as the Orioles’ nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award, which recognizes players’ humanitarian efforts, as well as the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association’s Heart & Hustle Award. Orioles Advocates recognized him as the recipient of the Oriole Way Award during the team’s final homestand.

That’s all part of why, if Mancini doesn’t return to the Orioles in 2022, “he’s happy with what he left in Baltimore,” Perlman said.

“I feel such a special connection to this city, and I feel the love back from them,” Mancini said. “It’s just been absolutely incredible, and it means the world to me.

“They love their baseball in Baltimore, whether we’re playing well or not. They love the Orioles unconditionally. That’s something I really appreciate, and they’ve been so kind and receptive to me throughout my entire career.”

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