David S. Driver
"Providing my byline by your deadline"
By David Driver
August 4, 2015
By David Driver
For the Lakeland (Fla.) Ledger
Used with permission
BOWIE, Maryland | Trey Mancini stepped to the plate on a recent Thursday night with runners on first and second and no outs in the top of the fourth.
As the No. 3 hitter for the Double-A Bowie Baysox, the Winter Haven High graduate and Orioles prospect was in an ideal situation to produce runs in an Eastern League game against the Trenton Thunder and right-handed pitcher Brady Lail.
But instead of being overly aggressive and swinging the bat, Mancini took five pitches — four of them borderline pitches for balls — and drew a walk to the load the bases in what would become a four-run inning for the host Baysox.
First-place Bowie went on to win 4-3 against the affiliate of the New York Yankees.
"I have been working on that a lot. My whole career, I have not walked a lot," said Mancini, standing outside the Bowie clubhouse after the game. "I need to get deeper in counts and take some walks. I was glad I could help the team win in the inning we scored the runs."
Mancini, a right-handed hitting first baseman, hit .340 with 16 doubles, seven home runs and 32 RBIs in his first 50 games with Bowie through Aug. 2 after he was promoted from Single-A Frederick of the Carolina League in June. He hit .300 in a 10-game stretch through Aug. 2 with a pair of three-hit games in that time.
He hit .314 in 52 games with Frederick with 14 doubles, three triples, eight homers and 32 RBIs earlier this year.
"It was a very nice surprise," he said of the promotion. "The last month or so in Frederick I did a good job of forgetting bad at bats. I have tried to do that at Bowie, too, and luckily it has worked so far."
Mancini is living with the high school friend of his mother, who grew up in the Bowie area and attended Elizabeth Seton High in nearby Bladensburg, Md. His mother was at Thursday's game, and more family members are expected to be in the stands at Prince George's Stadium this weekend for the series with Trenton.
Jeff Manto, the coordinator of minor league hitting for the Orioles, said Mancini has thrived this year.
"One of the biggest things that has happened to him is he is not missing his pitch at all," said former infielder Manto, who played in the Majors from 1990 to 2000 with several teams, including the Detroit Tigers in 1998. "He has matured as a hitter exceptionally quick. It was a great transition for him (from Frederick). He is one of the guys who has paid attention to the game."
Manto said Mancini compares in some ways to Orioles Triple-A first baseman Christian Walker, a right-handed hitter who also put up big numbers at Bowie last year with 20 homers and had a brief stint with the Orioles.
"They are very disciplined. They are very (knowledgeable) about the strike zone," Manto said from Florida after a Gulf Coast League game.
Mancini, 23, was drafted in the eighth round in 2013 out of Notre Dame by the Orioles.
The right-handed hitter began his pro career with Aberdeen in the short-season New York-Penn League and hit .328 with three homers and 35 RBIs in 256 at bats.
Last year, he started at low Single-A Delmarva of the South Atlantic League and hit .317 with three homers and 42 RBIs in 268 at bats. He was then promoted to high Single-A Frederick and hit .251 with seven homers and 41 RBIs in 275 at bats.
He began this year with a lifetime minor league average of .298 with 13 homers and 118 RBIs in 205 games and 799 at bats.
Baseball America named Mancini the best player in the Orioles system the first half of the minor league season this year after he led the Carolina League in hits (65), extra-base hits (25) and slugging (.527) when he was promoted to Double-A Bowie on June 4.
"It's just the quality of his at bats," Brian Graham, the director of player development for the Orioles, told Baseball America. "He's showing patience and better plate discipline. He's driving the ball. And he's facing good pitching."
He began this season as the No. 30 prospect in the Orioles system, according to Baseball America, but has certainly improved on that status this year.
The next step up the minor league ladder in the Orioles' system is Triple-A Norfolk of the International League.
But could Mancini earn a possible promotion to the Orioles on Sept. 1 when the rosters expand?
"It is really not" on my mind, he said. "If I were to have that on my mind all of the time, I would start to press a little bit. And that is the last thing I want. I have not been thinking about it much."
The Bowie pitching coach is former big leaguer Alan Mills, a Kathleen High School grad. The Baysox entered August 3 with a team ERA of 3.38, the third-best mark in the Eastern League. The Baysox staff led the league with 811 strikeouts.
Lakeland native Steve Pearce of the Orioles is hitting .227 with seven homers but is currently on the disabled list. The Orioles split a four-game series with the Tigers that ended at home Sunday.
July 28, 2015
By David Driver
Used with permission
For the Times-Union
BALTIMORE - The UAlbany football team didn't get a lot of respect here Tuesday, as the Great Danes were picked in the preseason poll to finish 10th out of 12 teams this year in the Colonial Athletic Association.
"It gives us a chance to prove everyone wrong," said sophomore wide receiver Josh Gontarek, speaking at the annual CAA media day at M&T Bank Stadium.
"None of that stuff matters. We obviously think we are better than that," redshirt junior linebacker Michael Nicastro said.
"Predictions go by reputation in the league," said Greg Gattuso, ready to start his second year as head coach. "It is kind of where we were picked last year. We have work to do to crack the top four or five."
The Great Danes were ninth last year in the CAA at 3-5; they were 7-5 overall.
But UAlbany, which reports to camp Aug. 6, could surprise some teams with the addition of transfer quarterback DJ Crook, a redshirt sophomore.
"DJ has been great. He has a leg up on the job," Gattuso said. "It will be an interesting battle. Somebody needs to seize it and hopefully DJ can do that for us."
A 6-foot-1 redshirt sophomore, Crook was the backup quarterback for Penn State last year as a redshirt freshman and completed 6 of 9 passes for 57 yards and a touchdown on Sept. 20 against former CAA team UMass.
"He picked up on the system a lot quicker than most people," said Gontarek, who was named to the 2015 CAA preseason all-conference team here Tuesday. "We have a great competition going on right now" at quarterback.
Others listed on the depth chart at quarterback are freshman Will Brunson, redshirt junior Dan Harding, freshman Neven Sussman and redshirt freshman Steve Shanley.
"It is good to have some of that big-level experience," Nicastro said of Crook.
Last year quarterback Will Fiacchi, who has graduated, completed 207 of 377 passes for 2,636 yards and 24 touchdowns with eight interceptions.
UAlbany begins its second season under Gattuso on Sept. 5 at Buffalo.
"We have one year under our belt," Nicastro said of Gattuso. "All the players got to know the coaches."
UAlbany plays its first CAA contest and first home game Sept. 12 against Rhode Island, pegged to finish 11th in the conference.
The CAA produced four playoff teams last year and has had four national title teams since 2003.
Gontarek was the only UAlbany player named to the preseason all-CAA team. He was the only sophomore named to the offensive team.
"It means I have high expectations," said Gontarek, who had a team-high 58 catches last year. "I have to prove I am worth it."
Nicastro had a team-high 120 tackles with two interceptions and two fumble recoveries in 2014.
"I think we have a real good offense," Nicastro said. "We have experience on both sides of the ball."
Gattuso said he has made very few changes as he gets ready for his second season.
"We believe in what we do and how we do it," he said. It will take play on the field to convince opposing CAA teams of the same.
David Driver is a freelance writer who can be reached at www.davidsdriver.com.
CAA preseason poll
Here is the annual Colonial Athletic Association preseason poll, which is voted on by coaches and media relations staff:
1. Villanova (14)
2. James Madison (5)
3. New Hampshire (5)
4. William & Mary
8. Stony Brook
11. Rhode Island