Semien 'excited' to return home to Oakland

Blue Jays infielder grew up in Bay Area, spent 6 seasons with A's

May 4th, 2021

OAKLAND -- Arriving in the Bay Area on Sunday night, felt right at home again. He slept in his Alameda, Calif., home that he still owns and woke up Monday morning to make the same drive to the ballpark that became a ritual for six years. Everything was so familiar.

Until he arrived to the Oakland Coliseum.

Semien knows the route to the stadium’s home clubhouse by memory. That was engrained after playing six seasons with the A’s from 2015-20. Now back in town with the Blue Jays for a four-game series -- his first time back since joining Toronto on a one-year, $18 million contract in January -- Semien had to ask for directions from the parking lot attendant on which gate to use for the visitors’ clubhouse.

“It’s a totally different entrance and everything,” Semien said. “I hadn’t been on that side since 2014. It’s a little weird. Once we get on the field, I think I’ll be most comfortable.”

For Semien, the Bay Area is the ultimate comfort zone. More than just a region in which he played baseball over his previous six seasons, it's where he cultivated his love for the game, starting out as a little leaguer in El Cerrito, before going on to shine as a high schooler at Saint Mary’s College High School, and then at UC Berkeley.

This is more than just a place where he spent the previous six years of his career. This is home.

“I’m very proud to be a Bay Area native,” Semien said. “I get to play baseball right where I grew up tonight. I was lucky enough to do it for six years. I had to move on to Toronto, but one of the perks of still playing in the American League is that I still get to come back here.”

With such homecomings come the usual ticket requests. Semien said he left a total of 21 tickets for friends and family, while “other people have bought their own.”

In the past, former A’s players who have left the club haven’t exactly received a warm ovation in their first visit back. But don’t expect that to be the case with Semien.

There’s a special connection between Semien and the Oakland faithful. It’s one that goes back to his first year with the club in 2015. Fresh off a trade from the White Sox, Semien was a raw player who struggled defensively. But as the years went on, fans grew enamored with his relentless work ethic, something this blue-collar city can relate to.

They watched him grow into not just an everyday big leaguer, but the leader of an upstart A’s club over the past few years. In 2019, Semien emerged as one of the top players in the game, finishing the season third in AL MVP Award voting.

Semien's grinder mentality remains instilled in Oakland's top players today. Matt Chapman, Matt Olson and Ramón Laureano are some of the players who continue the pregame workout routine they adopted from him in years past.

"Everybody here loves Marcus and knows the kind of guy and player that he is," Olson said. "It’ll be fun to compete against him. I’m sure we’ll have a little fun with him, too.”

But beyond his production on the field, Semien’s popularity around these parts was also largely based on his contributions away from the field. He became a key figure in the community, most recently increasing his advocacy for ways to provide more accessibility to baseball for the Black youth in Oakland and surrounding cities.

Given all that Semien did in his time with Oakland, many felt he was destined to be an A for life. That’s why the thought of seeing him in a different uniform is still hard to fathom for some, A’s manager Bob Melvin included.

“It’ll be difficult,” Melvin said. “I’ve had to do this before, but probably not with too many guys that I’m as close to as Marcus.

“There are certain guys you just don’t want to see in a different uniform. That’s just the way baseball is.”

The awkwardness is still fresh. Semien said one of the weirdest parts throughout the preparation for this four-game series was studying film on Frankie Montas, who he’d grown to become good friends with over the past few years. The exchanges between him and his former teammates will surely be friendly before and after each game. But once he steps in between those lines, it’s still time to compete.

“I’m just excited to play in front of family and compete against my best friends on that team,” Semien said. “I’m looking forward to tonight and hope we can get a win, most importantly.”