MLBbro Marcus Semien’s father, Damien, vividly recalls walking into Marcus’ room to pick him up from his mother’s house, across the bay from San Francisco on the weekends, when the 31-year-old MLB All-Star was about six years old.
The image of Marcus lying in bed and using his baseball glove as a pillow is still fresh in the forefront of his father’s mind 25 years and 160 major league home runs later.
“Right when I saw that, I knew this kid was falling in love with the sport of baseball,” Damien Semien told MLBbro.com on the eve of his son’s introductory press conference with the Texas Rangers.
“So I said, ‘Ok,” Damien recalls, “let me see how it’s going to work. Something told me to stand back and let him learn how to love it. Once Marcus loved the game of baseball, I knew there was no turning back. He breathed baseball. He played on all of the El Cerrito Youth Baseball All-Star teams.”
Torch Carrier For Black Knights Of Baseball
Marcus Semien is one of a handful of Black MLB players who can be considered a superstar. The Bay Area native elevated into another stratosphere this season with the Toronto Blue Jays, setting a single-season record for home runs by a second baseman.
Semien’s historic season was so productive that he priced the Jays right out of contention and locked in early on a 7-year, $175M contract with the Texas Rangers, who lost 102 games this past season and vowed to turn the losing around with an aggressive pursuit of free agents.
As the lockout gets under way, Semien has his blockbuster contract secured and he’s anxiously looking forward to the future as a cornerstone of the Rangers’ rebuild.
A Father’s Dream
Semien’s father Damien has played a huge role in his son’s development as a ball player and a person.
As Marcus introduced himself to the fans who will sell out The Ballpark In Arlington Stadium to see his five-tool ability up close for the next seven seasons, his Dad spoke with MLBbro.com from the perspective of a Black father who’s navigated an improbable journey for his son, who’s one of the 7.8 percent African-American players in MLB.
TSL: Before we get into Marcus and his new contract, what are the three things that you feel you did right as a Dad to help your son overcome such long shot odds of becoming a pro athlete?
Damien Semien: “1. I’ve told Marcus never quit what you start. 2. If you want it bad enough go get it. 3. Always put God first. Thank God for putting you in this position and always feed the blessing he gave you through hard work and love.”
Semien Gets The Bag, Beats The Lockout
Siemien’s contract doesn’t just represent the value of Black baseball, but it serves as inspiration to the thousands of young African-American baseball players in youth leagues across the country, looking for a reason to believe that they could become the next Ken Griffey Jr., Mookie Betts or Marcus Semien.
TSL: This entire contract situation must have been like a whirlwind to your family
Damien Semien: “It is man, everything is happening so fast. It literally happened in the blink of an eye. Marcus called me on Thanksgiving and he gave me a little bit of insight into where he was as far as the whole process. Next thing I know, a few days after that. He was like, ‘this is where we are at Dad…Texas’.
Semien’s contract is more than just confirmation that he deserves to be paid in the Top 15-20 players in the sport. It’s vindication for a player who was drafted in the sixth round of the 2011 MLB Draft by the Chicago White Sox, traded to the Oakland A’s for two players no longer in the league and then ushered out of the door just as he was blossoming into an elite player in the sport.
Oakland Won’t Pay What Semien Weighs| Oh Canada!
Semien, who grew up in the Bay and was fortunate to play for his local MLB team in front of his family and friends for six seasons (2015-2020), was forced to go to Canada on a one-year, $18M “show me” deal, to prove that he was worth investing in long term.
TSL: What was that situation like for Marcus and your family? Having to leave Oakland, leave the country to prove that he was worth the money.
Damien: “Myself and Marcus –I can speak for him in certain respects — and my family, we owe a ton of gratitude to the Oakland A’s organization. He came over there from Chicago. He had that rough first year, but I love Bob Melvin because he stuck with Marcus. He saw something in Marcus. We all know the story. Melvin brought in Ron Washington (current Atlanta Braves coach) and they never gave up on my son.”
Fielding Guru Ron Washington Put His Magic Hands On Marcus
Washington is known as a fielding guru and has worked wonders with various players around the league, including 2021 World Series second baseman Ozzie Albies of the Atlanta Braves.
Those long hours executing Washington’s unorthodox drills worked wonders for Semien, who had a whopping 35 errors his first year at short in Oakland.
By 2019 he was a webmaster, making a respectable 12 errors in 161 games played. This season he made just eight errors in 146 starts at second base.
Damien says if Marcus could give Ron Washington “his right arm” he would. “And I’d give him my left arm, “ Damien Semien tells MLBbro.com.
Because that man (Ron Washington) molded my son into the player that he is. So there’s no animosity towards Oakland at all.
“They had to do what they had to do and Marcus had to do what he had to do. It worked out for both sides.”
TSL: How did Marcus handle the mental adjustment of switching from shortstop to second base? Most shortstops are very territorial because it’s considered an elite position on the field. Some would even take it as a demotion.
Damien Semien: “Marcus is undeniably a shortstop at heart. He knows that he can play the position and he’s proved that he can play the position. He’s proved it at a high level.”
Marcus is a team player and he’s a baseball player first. Wherever you put Marcus he’s going to work his tail off to get right. If moving to second base helps the team win then Marcus will do it.
“He took the change in stride. His challenge was making the adjustment to a new position. That’s what motivated him all season. He was the best in the American League at his position.”
Texas Rebuilding With All-Star Infield
That’s why when the Rangers — a team that went to back-to-back World Series with Ron Washington at the helm in 2010-11 — also signed Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager to a 10-year $325 million deal, Marcus and his Dad were elated. The move shows that Texas is committed to acquiring talent and quickly transforming a losing culture.
I love that. That’s beautiful. Those two (Semien & Seager) up the middle. That’s a good combination right there.
Next Level Sh*t
Marcus Semien has raised the market value for second baseman and also risen from super solid shortstop in a league full of great shortstops to the premier second baseman in the game. Quite a leap, and all he had to do was move 90 feet to his left.
Damien Semien: “As a father, Marcus winning the Gold Glove impressed the heck out of me because I told Marcus before his career ended I wanted him to win one because that’s what he worked so hard at. We go back to that first year with the A’s when Marcus made all of those errors… that Gold Glove proved to the world that you made some mistakes and you worked your butt off to correct those mistakes.”
TSL: Why was the Texas Rangers a perfect fit for Marcus?
Damien Semien: “Marcus wants to be part of a rebuilding process. Texas didn’t have a very good year, but in the recruiting process Marcus was able to assess what they had and what they potentially got. That’s his biggest motivating factor right now.
It’s going to be a good run here and he has seven years to get it going. But I think it’s going to get better very soon.”
Marcus knows the AL West up and down and I think they got a good shot with the pieces they are putting together. They will be right up there with Houston.
TSL: What intangibles does Marcus bring to the Texas Rangers as a player and leader?
Damien Semien: “He leads by example. He’s a quiet man but knows how to lead. He had a taste of the league and what it takes to win and how hard it is to win and he’s going to be able to show young players what it takes.”
Marcus loves the process to succeed. It’s contagious from what I’ve been told. I talked to a few of the A’s players that I know and they said, ‘man Marcus is contagious.’
“His work ethic, his every-single-day routine that he doesn’t veer away from… that’s contagious.”
Family & Sports Is The Foundation
You can’t discuss the career of Marcus Semien without acknowledging the heavy influence and foundation in sports set by his grandfather, father and uncles.
Damien says the Semien Family sports legacy dates back to his grandfather and was passed along to Damien and his brothers and then to Marcus who has young boys of his own.
Damien Semien: “They all had a pretty strong sports background and laid a good foundation in San Francisco. I played baseball, basketball, football, and ran track. But my first love was baseball.”
Marcus was a great multi-sport athlete himself. A dynamic basketball player who starred on a state basketball team that went to the Finals and he played against the NBA’s Jrue Holiday.
Marcus was a star at Saint Mary’s High School in Berkeley, California. He hit .471 as a junior and .371 in his senior year. He went to Cal Berkeley for college and experienced some ups and downs, but flashed enough raw skills to be considered an MLB prospect.
Damien Semien: “But he has always been a very smart, humble and an appreciative young man. Money will never change Marcus. He’s humble even in his spending habits. He and his wife Tarah.”
Semien’s wife has some solid sports genes as well. Both of Tarah’s parents are former college athletes. Her father, played college basketball at San Jose State and was with the 192nd overall selection during the ninth round of the 1981 NBA draft by the Golden State Warriors. Her mother also attended San Jose State and was a member of the volleyball team.
Damien Semien: “I also tip my hat to Marcus’ wonderful mother Tracy. She did an outstanding job with Marcus. Everyone knew our story. We weren’t together, so Marcus was raised at my house and her house. We raised a fantastic young man and no one can ever take that away from both of us.”
TSL: Will this new contract put more pressure on Marcus who is already playing in a sport that sometimes devalues the contributions of Black players?
Damien Semien: “Now as far as pressure, Marcus has handled it very well. He’s been in an underdog role throughout his career and he feels like he’s always had to prove himself every year over and over and over, but again that’s his motivation.”
I just told him last night, ‘Son you’re not the underdog anymore.Everybody knows who Marcus Semien is now.’ He made it to the top so far. Now he’s got to stay at the top. That will be his new motivation.
The Future Of Baseball Is Now
Marcus Semien is a grown man who beat all the odds and is living a superstar life that most people only see in the movies. But his relationship with his Dad remains the same. A union based on love, trust and support. Damien remains a positive voice and silent force in the life of an MLB star who seems to have it all figured out.
The taste inside Marcus Semien‘s mouth must be sweeter than a bee hive.
A season after being left for dead by the Oakland A’s and accepting a position change and a one-year “show me” deal from the Toronto Blue Jays, Semien is cashing in on a seven-year/$175M deal with the Texas Rangers.
Reports say Semien, one of the coveted middle infielders on the free agent market, wanted to get his next contract finalized prior to the expiration of the Collective Bargaining Agreement on December 1, as a lockout and transactions freeze are widely expected to follow.
The Rangers organization entered free agency with the intention of being agressive in acquiring talent that could help lift the franchise out of its current rut. Texas finished in last place in the AL West the last two seasons, including a disasterous 102-loss season in 2021.
MLBTR projected Semien for six years and $138MM. But who gives a damn about their projections. Semien is a beast of a player, a quiet leader and positive clubhouse influence. More importantly, he seems to be a player in his prime, not on the decline.
Semien Raising The Bar For FA Shortstops?
There’s a belief that Semien’s deal raises the potential contract value for younger shortstops such as Carlos Correa (age 27), Corey Seager (28 in April), Trevor Story (who just turned 29) and Javier Baez (29).
That’s not neccessarily true as Baez is coming off a terribel season with the Mets, Seager is injury prone and Correa’s offensive inconsistency raises some question marks.
However, don’t expect Semien to be clocking the next man’s pockets. He has his work cut out helping to create a winning culture in Texas.
There’s not a more deserving player than Semien, who earned every penny with a record-breaking 2021 season that we won’t soon forget.
As predicted, Semien gets the bag and the Texas Rangers can now say they have one of the league’s Best 10 players — and go from there.
On Friday, the Houston Astros signed Baker, 72, to a new one-year contract. Financial terms were not released by the club. Quite frankly, Baker has been a huge success since taking over the cheating-scandal Astros before the 2020 season.
Baker – who brought credibility back to the franchise and a respected voice for the players – managed the Astros to the World Series this season, losing in six games to the Atlanta Braves.
In 2020, the COVID19-shortened season, Baker got the Astros to the American League Championship Series. Houston lost to the Tampa Bay Rays in seven games.
“He’s done a great job this last year,” Astros owner Jim Crane told the media. “Great in the locker room, great with the fans, great with the media.
For sure, Baker had hoped he would be coming back with a World Series trophy under his belt. But his second trip to the Fall Classic as a manager ended the same way as in 2002 when his San Francisco Giants lost to the Anaheim Angels.
Nonetheless, Baker separated himself from many other managers by becoming the first manager to win a division with five different teams.
“Looking forward to being part of this organization and this city,” Baker told the media at his announcement. “I have some tremendous ties here and have some unfinished business to take care of. But we’re close. We’re getting better and better every year.”
Coming into the 2022 season, Baker ranks 12th all-time with 1,987 career wins and could move all the way up to ninth with just 54 victories.
When he does that, Baker will pass some big time names in the managerial game: Bruce Bochy (2,003), Leo Durocher (2,008) and Walter Alston (2,040).
He led all outfielders in Ultimate Zone Rating (13.3) and led all centerfielders in Defensive Runs Above Average (15.3).
The one-time World Series winner made just three errors in 365 chances, had 11 assists, and finished with a .992 fielding percentage.
Taylor has above average speed and makes really good reads on balls: Just know that if there is a ball hit in the outfield and it’s not leaving the park, Taylor is going to have a good chance tracking it down.
Semien will probably add a Silver Slugger Award to go along with his Gold Glove Award.
This brother had an amazing season and was one of the hottest players in all of baseball from April to October.
In his first season with the Blue Jays, Semien spent most of his time at second base. He broke the record for home runs by a second baseman in an MLB season, but his glove work was just as prominent. Semien definitely had an MVP-caliber season.
He made a total of nine errors in 590 chances, while finishing with 363 assists and a .985 fielding percentage.
Before coming over to Toronto, Semien spent most of his time playing shortstop. Making that transition to second base seemed to work out just fine.
He led all AL second basemen in Ultimate Zone Rating at 6.6. Semien was one player who definitely made a name for himself this season and he quickly became a fan favorite.
Michael Taylor and Marcus Semien did their thing on the field this season and it’s great to see that their efforts did not go unnoticed.
National League pitcher Marcus Stroman was snubbed for his Gold Glove, but the AL got it right with these guys.
There wasn’t enough toothpick swag or O.G. confidence to counter the thunder of the Atlanta Braves. Dusty Baker pushed all the right buttons in game five to bring the 2021 World Series back to Houston needing two wins to potentially seal his place as hall of fame manager.
But it wasn’t meant to be.
It was a gamble to put Game 6 of the World Series on the back of a rookie who got bombed early on during the series.
After going all in at the poker table, Luis Garcia was given the start on three days rest and lost his control.
The bullpen had spent 6.1 innings keeping them in the series in game five. Baker needed to get at least four innings from Garcia but instead he gave up three earned runs.
The formula for a game seven was compromised with no room for error and the chances of a repeat performance from Halloween were gone.
Houston’s chances to continue the Braves championship curse basically ended with a 446 foot three run homer from World Series MVP Jorge Soler that vanished behind the Crawford Boxes and over the train tracks in Minute Maid Park in the third inning.
An offensively challenged team that was already emotionally spent was done.
“We played through a lot this year, all kinds of adversity,” Baker said. “We just kind of ran out of gas pitching wise.”
Even his infectious persona of confidence that filtered through his team was gone. Baker’s eyes that found tweaks in the lineup strained to look for answers that would put pressure on Braves starter Max Fried.
Shifting the toothpick to the other side of his mouth couldn’t muster another rally as the Astros bats went back to the freezer as the American League’s most productive offense went silent.
Houston’s pitching was behind the eight ball after Lance McCullers was lost prior to game one. Atlanta’s offense crushed Houston’s pitching throughout the series at a historic pace through the entire series.
The Braves hit 11 home runs while the Astros hit two. All things considered they were fortunate the series lasted six games.
“We couldn’t keep them in the ballpark,” Baker said. “If we walked somebody it would lead to crooked number innings. Their pitching shut us down.”
Now the wheels start turning for the Astros as an organization. Baker has gone one step farther in each of his two seasons.There is clearly a love affair between Baker and his clubhouse.
With a new generation of players cleansing the stench from their previous world championship it remains to be seen whether the toothpick swag will be given the opportunity to finish the task of bringing a World Series title to Houston without the drama that came with the first one.
“I’ve still got some unfinished business,” he said. “I mean, I love these guys over here. I love the town of Houston. The fans are behind us.”
Once again that original MLBbro O.G. Dusty Baker stayed level through chaos and his Houston Astros came back to life after giving the Atlanta Braves a dose of reality in Game 5 of the 2021 World Series.
The Astros erased a 4-0 lead after a first inning grand slam brought them to within outs of their season ending, and came from behind to beat the Braves 9-5.
The Stros head back to H-Town with confidence that no lead is insurmountable. Houston still trails the series 3-2, but momentum seems to have returned to the Fabulous Baker Boys.
Atlanta looks like a fighter who spent a round of taking flurries to gather points but now must pick themselves up off the canvas to win one of their next two games in order to win the championship that was in their grasp for most of Sunday night.
Baker never seemed phased after it appeared the Astros grave had been prepared for burial when Adam Duval launched a first inning grand slam.
No team had ever come back from giving up a four-run shot in the first inning in history.
The first inning on Halloween was fright night in Atlanta but the O.G. ‘s toothpick swag never wavered.
“I always say, if it’s going to happen, let it happen early,” said Baker. “You don’t want it to happen in the middle of the game or toward the end of the game. The guys came through. That’s what counts.”
Down by four with the tenth man doing their controversial tomahawk chop in the stands, Baker’s deft use of his bullpen kept the game close until the lethal Houston bats woke from the offensive slumber.
Often maligned by pundits who contend he doesn’t manage a bullpen effectively, Baker used his roster masterfully to bring the series back to Minute Maid Park.
Houston struggled with runners in scoring position through the first four games of the series so Baker juggled his lineup and turned what was supposed to be a celebration into the nightmare at Truist Park.
Houston evened the game in the third inning on an RBI double by Carlos Correa (who was moved into the five hole) and a groundout by Yuli Gurriel, who was hitting eighth in the lineup. It was one of three hits for the future free agent.