Who doesn’t love a good comeback story? Probably not too many people out there. The comeback player award is one of the most debated each year in the sports landscape. It fuels stories for the media, and inspirations for people living their day-to-day lives. It’s rare to have a unanimous leader in the preseason, but occasionally you have players who deserve it.
The NFL had a great story in Alex Smith last year. Smith had a gruesome injury in 2018. One that saw him possibly never walk again; an amputated leg was on the table for him early. Instead, he somehow made a miraculous recovery that saw him make starts for the NFC East champion Washington Football Team last year.
This year, the MLB has its own miraculous comeback to rally behind. In 2020, Orioles outfielder Trey Mancini was diagnosed with colon cancer. Baseball was far in the back of his mind. But just a year later, he returned as the clear-cut leader of the Baltimore Orioles.
A Sad Day
Last February, Trey Mancini had his family drive down to Sarasota where the Orioles held their spring training. They arrived to console their son, who had just been given the news of his diagnosis. Mancini admitted that he wasn’t sure from that moment on if he would really play baseball again. But through his determination and healthy recovery, he made it to spring training and onto the Orioles opening day roster.
Quite the Comeback
Mancini has hit at the top of the Orioles lineup all year, and it wasn’t until April 14th that his coaches thought he might need a day off. He was given one, although he was also supposedly available off the bench. Hours later the game was postponed, setting up a double-header against the Mariners in Camden Yards the next day.
In Game 1 of that double-header, Mancini blasted a 429-foot homer. That swing demonstrated that Mancini is back in business as a slugger for the Orioles. His place atop of the order shows that his coaches have confidence in his ability to regain that all-star form.
It was his third of the year to go along with 10 RBIs and a .333 batting average. Those are pretty nice numbers this early on for most players, but for one coming back from cancer, it’s incredible. If Mancini keeps this up, he’ll unquestionably be named AL comeback player of the year.
Even if his overall numbers dip though, he should have a strong case. Much like Smith in the NFL last year, when you have these inspiring stories that transcend sports and tap into the humanity of it all, it’s hard to look past it.
A Story You Just Can’t Compete With
Recovery from cancer is something that only those who have gone through it can understand. It’s something that everyone can see is truly remarkable and should always be celebrated. It’s easier to underscore when it happens to a young athlete in their prime. Mancini’s full recovery is reason alone for optimism for an otherwise rebuilding Orioles squad.
If you look around there are very few players projected to win the AL award outside of Mancini. It is widely expected that he will be honored, joining the Indians’ Carlos Carrasco as players who have come back from cancer to win the award. It’s a story the media should want to tell and one that will most likely happen. It’s just right to honor such a high-level talent who has overcome so much adversity and has instantly inserted himself back into a leadership role with the team.
His early consistency has been a cherry on top. Here’s hoping for a strong and healthy rest of 2021 for Trey Mancini!