Mancini’s tail­gate sup­ports young su­per­fan

Slug­ger also on board with Ori­oles’ re­build­ing ef­fort

Baltimore Sun - - NFL - By Peter Sch­muck

It wasn’t a per­fect day for a tail­gate party, but Ori­oles star Trey Mancini seemed to be right in his ele­ment.

He hosted this year’s Pur­ple Tail­gate ben­e­fit out­side M&T Bank Sta­dium, and he wasn’t go­ing to let steady driz­zle and the win­ter chill get in the way of a great time for a large crowd of Ravens fans and the ben­e­fi­ciary of the an­nual fund-rais­ing event — 13-year-old Mo Gaba.

“The weather’s not ideal,” Mancini said, “but luck­ily Notre Dame tail­gates pre­pared me for some tough con­di­tions. I’m hon­estly so touched by how many peo­ple came out, es­pe­cially with the weather. It’s a great turnout and ev­ery­body seems to be hav­ing a good time. So, I’m re­ally happy about that and that we could do this for Mo.”

Gaba is bat­tling can­cer for the fourth time, but he took the stage Sun­day morn­ing and led the crowd in a cou­ple of big cheers be­fore the Ravens took on the 10-1 San Fran­cisco 49ers a few hun­dred yards away.

“Go Ravens!” he shouted, and the fans de­liv­ered a loud re­sponse.

“What time is it?” he baited the crowd, which bel­lowed back that it was time for a Ravens vic­tory.

Gaba has be­come of a lo­cal celebrity around Bal­ti­more be­cause of his in­spir­ing story and his su­per­fan sup­port of both the Ravens and the Ori­oles.

“When­ever you meet him, he just lights up the room,” Mancini said. “He has such a pos­i­tive at­ti­tude and he looks great today. He’s walk­ing around and he looks re­ally good. It’s good to hang out with him and see that he’s do­ing well.”

Former Ori­ole Adam Jones had hosted his an­nual #StayHun­gry Pur­ple Tail­gate Party for the past six years, but Mancini took the hand­off when Jones was not re­tained by the team and signed a freeagent con­tract with the Ari­zona Di­a­mond­backs last win­ter.

“I know the Pur­ple Tail­gate has been in ex­is­tence for awhile and we didn’t want to see it go away,” Mancini said. “And, ob­vi­ously, I wanted to put my own lit­tle spin on it, be­cause you can’t re­ally fill Adam’s shoes. I’m happy to do this and keep it go­ing.”

The big ques­tion, how­ever, is whether

Mancini might have to turn the event over to an­other team­mate be­fore next foot­ball season. Ma­jor League Base­ball’s win­ter meet­ings loom just a week away and, while Ori­oles ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent Mike Elias has said re­cently he hopes to keep Mancini, he would not rule out a trade if he felt it would enhance the team’s over­all tal­ent.

Mancini said that he doesn’t think he’s headed out of town any­time soon.

“I re­ally don’t think so,” he said. “I feel very sim­i­larly to like I did at the All-Star break this year. I’m pretty con­fi­dent that I’m go­ing to stay. I’d like to stay ob­vi­ously. It’s out of my con­trol, but I like my chances of stay­ing.”

He did, how­ever, ex­press some re­gret that the club just placed vet­eran in­fielder Jonathan Villar on out­right waivers.

“It’s tough,” Mancini said. “He had such a good year. I’ve said it a ton of times this year. He’s pos­si­bly the most un­der­rated player in base­ball. I mean that. Whether he’s with us or an­other team, he’s re­ally go­ing to help what­ever team he’s on this year. But it’s just one of those de­ci­sions you have to make when you’re go­ing through a re­build.”

Villar had a strong all-around season in which he hit 24 homers, drove in 73 runs and stole 40 bases while play­ing both mid­dle in­field po­si­tions, but was ex­pected to com­mand about $10 mil­lion in salary ar­bi­tra­tion. Elias ob­vi­ously could not see spend­ing that much money on a vet­eran dur­ing what might be an­other 100-loss season.

“I think ev­ery­body re­al­izes, Elias and Sig [Me­j­dal], they know what they’re do­ing,” Mancini said. “Look what they did in Hous­ton, so I think a lot of peo­ple here re­ally trust the process. We’ve got a very knowledgab­le fan base here and they know what it takes in a re­build.

“It’s tough. Villar is such a good player. He’s such a good guy to have around. He re­ally ral­lies the team when we need to be ral­lied. If he not with us, we’ll def­i­nitely miss that. But the fans should know that ev­ery de­ci­sion that is made is for the good of the or­ga­ni­za­tion in the long run.”

AMY DAVIS/BAL­TI­MORE SUN

Ori­oles player Trey Mancini with Mo Gaba at the BMORE Around Town #Pur­ple tail­gate party. Gaba, 13, an avid Bal­ti­more sports fan, is bat­tling can­cer for the fourth time.

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