More than just a few foreheads were furrowed last August when Trey Mancini stepped onto the baseball field at Camden Yards in Baltimore.
On his right sleeve, near the jersey’s shoulder, was a patch with the words “Ms. Gorman” stitched in the middle it.
If local fans ever wondered just exactly what a Winter Haven upbringing meant — and still means — to the former Blue Devil turned Big Leaguer, the patch said it all.
As part of its now very popular “Players Weekend,” Major League Baseball allowed players to display a “Thank You” patch to recognize someone who had a major influence on their lives.
Mancini chose his third grade teacher, Eileen Gorman, who saw greatness in a young student at St. Joe’s Catholic School in Winter Haven.
“I think about her a lot and I’m always thankful for her and all the lessons she taught me,” Mancini told the Baltimore Sun that weekend. “I really don’t know if I’d be here today without here because she implemented a lot of confidence in me when, at the time going in, I was pretty intimidated and scared. But by the end of that year, it had changed a lot, and it was all due to her.”
That, in 2018, he still thought often of her teacher- turned confidant says even more than you might realize. Gorman passed away in 2004.
Mancini – who not only was a star at Winter Haven when he hit .480 and drove in 31 runs in his 2010 senior season, but went on to be a two-year starter for Notre Dame, where he homered a dozen times for the Irish – will need a few of Gorman’s lessons this year with the Orioles, an MLB organization decidedly in a rebuilding phase.
In fact, not even three full years in with the Birds, Mancini is now almost a grizzled vet, a natural born hitter (he was 3-for-4 in Baltimore’s season opener last Thursday at Yankee Stadium) to whom many of the team’s youngsters will no doubt look as the Orioles embark on an this project.
“It’s a whole new regime,” Mancini said to the media in the Orioles’ Grapefruit League clubhouse recently. “There’s still a lot we’re kind of working on right now. A month from now I’ll probably have a better answer than I do know. But I’m looking forward to seeing what changed I can make and make myself better.”
And he will no doubt reach back to his fond grade school memories — fostered by a former Irish nun whose “tough love” turned Mancini around — for some words of encouragement even when the losing seemingly gets too much to bear.
“You go out and play like you can win every single game,” he added. “Life can come fast sometimes, and it definitely did for me, but I’m ready for it.”