In his third full season in the majors, Orioles slugger Trey Mancini has already set a career high for home runs — he has 29, after hitting 24 each of his first two years — and doubles (29 of those, too) and he’s posting the best OPS of his young career.
And this weekend at Camden Yards, the batter’s box won’t be the only place a Mancini will be a star. For Players' Weekend, the Mancini family peppers will be available at all Roma Sausage locations in the ballpark, atop the Italian sausages. Mancini’s grandfather, Antonio Mancini, founded the company in 1922.
Mancini took a few minutes to chat with Sporting News on the phone Friday afternoon about the family business, Notre Dame football and other assorted topics.
SPORTING NEWS: Let's start with your concession concoction. How did that come to be?
MANCINI: So, there's five of us on the team who have a concession item throughout the weekend. With my last name being Mancini, I’m Italian and my family has a pepper company that's been in existence for almost a hundred years now, I thought it'd be cool if one of the items featured the family peppers in it. And luckily they were able to send them up to Camden Yards in time and they made a menu item out of it.
SN: That’s awesome. Where's the company?
MANCINI: It's located in Zolfo Springs, Florida. It’s kind of thing in the middle of nowhere, honestly. It's about 45 to 50 minutes east of Sarasota, maybe a little more. It’s right in the middle of the state, kind of like south central Florida. There's just not much going on around there.
SN: That's gotta be kind of cool, to have that personal connection.
MANCINI: Yeah, for sure. My great-grandfather started the company. He immigrated from Italy, moved to Connecticit and then went from Connecticut down to Florida once they decided they wanted to mass produce the peppers. So, yeah, it's cool that it's still in existence and I'm able to do this, to sell it in the stadiums.
SN: When you were growing up, was that one of your goals, to make the major leagues and then have that major league ballpark sell your family’s peppers?
MANCINI: (laughs) No, not at all. That’s nothing I thought about. But, honestly, it was a huge part of my childhood. Basically every meal at dinner that we have when I'm home, we have the peppers out. I have them with pretty much every meal that I'm home.
MANCINI: Oh yeah, absolutely. I have the all the time, and obviously then we have kind of a limitless supply of them. So, yeah, every meal that I'm home visiting my parents, I have the peppers.
SN: So let me ask you about the Mancini family peppers. All the colors? How hot are they? What’s the signature taste for them?
MANCINI: They have a bunch of different kinds. The two most popular are the fried and roasted peppers. The fried are usually green, but there's some red peppers in that. And then there's roasted peppers that are mostly red, with some yellow mixed in with those. They also have grilled onions that are really good. At Blaze Pizza, the onions they have are Mancini onions. Then they also have giardiniera. They have long hots that are really good, but they're pretty spicy, and a couple of other items, but the fried and roasted peppers are their bread and butter and what they're mostly known for.
SN: Your nickname for Players' Weekend, Boomer, is that a shout-out to the legendary boxer Ray Mancini?
MANCINI: It is. So my nickname all my life was Boom Boom. People would just put two and two together and the name has always stuck. I didn't want to totally take his nickname, so my friends in college just shortened Boom Boom to Boomer. That's what most of my college friends call me, and even some people on the team. It was a pretty easy decision for my jersey.
SN: Is that what you’ve had the last couple of years?
MANCINI: I had it last year, and then two years ago I just put Trey as my nickname. Not very creative, I know. Trey’s actually a nickname. My real name's Joseph Antony Mancini III.
SN: Nice. Awesome. What are your custom cleats for this?
MANCINI: Under Armour sponsors Notre Dame, where I went to college, and they sent me some cleats that the baseball team uses. They’re green-and-gold cleats. I'll be wearing those all weekends.
SN: Are you as high on Notre Dame football as some of the people are? A lot of people have the Irish in their top 10.
MANCINI: Yeah! I mean, I definitely think they’re a top-10 team. I'm always hopeful, but it's a tough schedule this year: at Michigan and at Georgia, so it's going to be a really tall task to go 12-0. I don't know if that's in the future, but I’m so pumped. I’m a humongous college football fan. I’m so, so ready for it to start up. It starts up tomorrow, so I'm pumped.
SN: Were you a Notre Dame fan growing up or just after you played baseball there?
MANCINI: I always liked Notre Dame, but I actually was a Florida fan growing up. And I hate Florida now. I pretty much dislike every team except for ND. I’m a huge homer when it comes to college football. Just came to love Notre Dame the second I stepped on campus.
SN: Yeah, it's cool. I've been on campus a couple of times. It certainly grabs your attention.
MANCINI: It's a special place, for sure.
SN: Going back to the Players' Weekend for a minute, are there any other nicknames that stand out for teammates or competitors that you’ve seen and thought, “Damn, maybe I should have done that.”
MANCINI: No, nobody has a nickname that I kind of wish I would've though of. I just think it's cool that everybody’s nicknames are unique to them and they all kind of have a cool story to go along with it. I haven't really taken too deep of a look at all of them across the league, but there are always some that that pop out at you and are really funny.
SN: Joey Votto this year has “Who” because he’s a first baseman.
MANCINI: I saw that! That’s pretty great. I saw somebody else had a like Player To Be Named Later as their nickname.
SN: Josh Phegley!
MANCINI: Hilarious. I think that's my leader in the clubhouse right now.
SN: Awesome. I want to ask you a little bit about this year, too. This is only your third full year in the majors, but that puts you as one of the veterans on this team. What have you seen from some of the young guys this year that you've enjoyed?
MANCINI: A lot of the younger guys are showing that they belong up here. We knew coming into the year, it would be such a good opportunity for so many guys to showcase what they can do and try to be here for the long haul, when the rebuild is over and we're competing for a division title again. I think guys like (Anthony) Santander, John Means, and you see Hunter Harvey has just come up. He’s thrown two innings, but the stuff plays. I've been playing first both times he’s pitched and it's just a little bit different than what you usually see on the mound. He’s so good and has electric stuff. He battled through some injuries, stuck with it, and now it's reaping some rewards. It’s really cool. I think you're going to be seeing a lot more young guys like that come up and show that they belong up here.
SN: Do the guys talk about that, about wanting to play to show that they’re part of the future?
MANCINI: Not too much. I mean, as a player, your mindset is to go out and just win the game, try to help your team win the game. And if you do that, your talents will showcase themselves and speak for itself. So if you have that mentality, you're going about your business the right way. Nobody’s really thinking, “Oh yeah, I’ve gotta do well tonight to show them that I belong.” You can't really go out with that mentality. You just gotta go out and try to help contribute to a win, and at the end of the day I think you can look in the mirror and be happy with yourself.
SN: Some of your numbers, like your batting average and on-base percentage and whatnot dropped down a bit last year from your rookie year, but this year they're back up to previous the levels or even better this year, especially the home runs and the on-base percentage. Has it been a learning curve for you? What’s the difference?
MANCINI: I mean, I struggled in the first half last year, for a couple of different reasons. I remember at the All-Star break last year, I asked one of our advance statisticians, Mike Silverman, to do a little bit of basic research. It wasn't anything too in-depth or anything, but as to why I was kind of struggling in the first half that year compared to my rookie year. And a couple of things just popped out. I was letting a lot of hittable fastballs go by and swinging at a lot more breaking balls and rolling over.
We all know the game has changed, and it's gotten a lot more analytical and, you know, I think if you're not trying to adjust at least a little bit, you're behind the eight ball, and that's what I've tried to do. I've taken a lot more pride in walks. I've been much better in those situations, not chasing quite as many pitches. On-base percentage is extremely important. Your batting average can be high, but if you have a higher on-base percentage, that’s so much more important because scoring runs and driving in runs is what wins you games. So just making some minor adjustments and knowing what your strengths are can really help. That will show up in the numbers at the end of the year if you've tried to commit to that.
SN: Do you have, in the back of your mind, numbers goals? Like, do you say, “I’d love to have a .340 on-base percentage this year. I'd love to get the 30 homers.” I know some guys do, but some guys definitely don’t.
MANCINI: You know, I don’t. I really try not to, at least. Because if I do, if I start to put numbers in my head, then things go awry and you just start pressing. I just try to go out there and just concentrate. It's such a cliche, but if you really take it one pitch at a time and just try to win that pitch and not think about the end result, not let the end result totally dictate your mood and how the games going for you, then you're gonna be a lot better off. And I still struggle with that now. I can get frustrated and be result-oriented, but at the end of the day you have to have an approach and commit to it.