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Notre Dame Baseball

Trey Mancini and Chuck Ristano Grateful for Second Home Run Derby

July 13, 2021
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Former Notre Dame star Trey Mancini reunited with Fighting Irish pitching coach Chuck Ristano on Monday night to make the finals of the 2021 Home Run Derby. 

It wasn't the first home run derby the Baltimore Orioles first baseman/outfielder and Ristano participated in as Mancini won the Big East derby in 2012. 

"When I went out there and saw Coach Ristano out there, it was surreal," Mancini stated. "He was the pitching coach at Notre Dame what I was there and we did a Big East Home Run Derby together and won that. 

"At the time, I promised him if I was ever in the Major League Home Run Derby, he would throw to me. It was surreal to see that become a reality from my vantage point." 

The story is more than just a promise, as Mancini was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer in 2019. 

Mancini returned this spring and hasn't looked back, including Monday night in Denver.

"It was incredible," said Mancini. "Obviously, everybody knows the story by now, but the last year and a half was something you have nightmares about and to be here a year later and make it to the finals was incredible. 

"I knew they changed the rules to the finals and I didn't know what it was because I didn't pay too much attention to it early on in the day. I was focused on the early rounds and everything. We had a good time and it was fun to be back with Coach Ristano, so we had a great time out there." 

Pete Alonso took home the hardware, but Mancini didn't make it easy as he hit 22 home runs in the final round. 

"I always think I can win, but I also knew who I was going up against in the finals," explained Mancini. "I watched him in 2019 and I watched today. He makes it look really easy. He's hitting balls well over 500 feet and didn't seem like he got too tired, and I got pretty gassed in that last bonus round.

"I forgot that it was a minute less than the last round. Put up a good showing and unfortunately it wasn't enough, but there's not much more to say about Pete. He's a beast out there." 

If there was any question as to if Mancini was back, it was answered at Coors Field, but it also was a night to honor his former Notre Dame teammate Ricky Palmer.

Palmer passed away in October of 2020 following a battle with a brain tumor at the age of 29. 

"It was just the most incredible experience, nothing that I expected to happen at all and especially having Coach Ristano here with me," Mancini said of his experience at the 2021 Home Run Derby. The last year for both of us -  one of my teammates from Notre Dame that we were both really close with passed away in October, and it was a really tough time.

"To be here nine months later and to have this experience -- that was the last time I saw Coach Ristano was at the service. It was special to be here and do it for Ricky and Mo (Gaba), who was our fan in Baltimore, and just kind of everybody that's fighting a battle right now that you can get through it and come out the other side and live a normal life." 

Ristano was a little more emotional following the derby than Mancini as he's seen his former player battle for his life and grow as a man over the last 10 years. The two have become great friends and have formed a relationship much deeper than baseball or even as coach and player. 

"He's one of those people that you may not connect with every single day but having spent three years with him at Notre Dame, I mean, he came to my wedding, we communicated when my kids were born," Ristano explained. "It's just something that -- those relationships in the game, whether you're a college baseball coach, a high school coach, a Big Leaguer, there are some that just are more special than others. 

"You want them all to be that way, but this one for me is one that is just off the charts special and I'm just so thankful to have Trey in my life. And obviously incredibly proud of not only the baseball player he's become but the young man that he is today. It's been unbelievable."

Mancini has had his ups and downs over the last two years and he hopes his journey shows others they can not only beat cancer but also achieve their dreams. 

"I think it can set an example that you have to go back to your normal life, even though you might have this thing hanging over you sometimes," said Mancini. "That's the message that I really wanted to get across is I'm still going through a battle and there's so many people going through battles still.

"By all accounts, you can go back to how you were before. I feel great about my health and where I am and what the future holds but you definitely don't want to take every day for granted, and I've learned that."

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Trey Mancini and Chuck Ristano Grateful for Second Home Run Derby

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