From Cal to the Coliseum

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In an otherwise lost season for the 2016 Oakland Athletics, the team has found a shortstop for the future in former Cal star and East Bay native, Marcus Semien. For Semien, it has been a season of redemption. After a shaky first season with the franchise, the insatiable work ethic and unique skillset of the 25 year old have earned him a rank among the team’s most valued players.

Traded to Oakland in the wake of the 2014 season in which the A’s made the playoffs as a wildcard team, Semien entered 2015 as their starting shortstop. The A’s had made the risky decision to trade star shortstop prospect Addison Russell for the Cubs’ hard-throwing Jeff Samardzija, a former Notre Dame wide-receiver. It appeared for much of 2015 that the A’s were going to sorely regret losing Russell, their most highly touted prospect, whom many believe is a star in the making. Semien was erratic in the field, committing a league high 35 errors. The precarious beginning to his tenure as an Athletic may have broken the spirit of many young players. Semien, however, used the shroud of doubt surrounding his 2015 underperformance as incentive to improve.

With the help of former Rangers’ manager Ron Washington, a noted infield coaching guru, Semien went to work honing his craft. Washington, who re-joined the A’s coaching staff in May 2015, led Marcus through countless hours of infield drills to enhance the body mechanics and consistency necessary to thrive as a major league shortstop. Having previously coached infield legends such as Eric Chavez and Mark Ellis, Washington credited the familiar pattern of fielding errors to inexperience, seeing potential for greatness in Semien. Through 102 games this season, Semien has committed just 13 errors and improved his fielding percentage to .973, up from .947 a year ago.

Semien’s foundation for baseball was built in the Bay Area. Born and raised between El Cerrito and Albany, California, Semien’s appreciation for baseball began at a young age as an avid Giants fan. While the San Francisco franchise was where he focused his attention, Semien attended A’s games throughout his childhood, recalling the 20-game winning streak of 2002 and an admiration for dynamic infielders Chavez and Miguel Tejada. Playing for the El Cerrito Youth Baseball league helped Semien establish his talent among his peers before attending Saint Mary’s College High School in Albany. While at St Mary’s, Semien was a two-sport star in basketball and baseball.

His exceptional prowess in baseball in high school (he accumulated a .397 batting average and .493 on base percentage) made Semien a highly coveted college recruit. As the son of Cal alums Tracy White and Damien Semien, a wide receiver on the Bears football team in the early ‘90s, there was no doubt in his mind that he belonged at Cal. While playing for the Bears, Semien was a valuable infielder to the baseball program, helping the team reach the College World Series for the first time since 1992.

Semien’s power at the plate is one of his most valued assets as a player, helping distinguish himself from the other shortstops in the MLB. In the 2016 season, out of the shortstops in the American League, Semien has the most home runs at 21 and the fourth most RBI with 49. With a third of the 2016 season left, he has significantly more home runs than the 15 he had last season and has beat his 2015 RBI total of 45.

For the A’s fans who have lost hope for the 2016 season, Semien becomes a building block for a brighter, more successful future. Semien has built on his accolades as a Golden Bear and has established himself as one of the more promising young all around players in the Major Leagues.

Contact Helen Thomas-McLean at [email protected].