|photo by Kyla Baldwin
Marcus Jensen has been playing
professional baseball since 1990. Drafted by the San Francisco Giants, Marcus made his major league debut in 1996 and
has played for seven major league teams during his career: SF Giants (1996-97), Detroit Tigers (1997), Milwaukee Brewers
(1998, 2002), St. Louis Cardinals (1999), Minnesota Twins (2000), Boston Red Sox (2001), and Texas Rangers (2001).
his career, Marcus has participated in international competitions, including the Pan Am Games and Olympics. In 2000
he helped the United States capture the gold medal at the Summer Games in Sydney, Australia.
Marcus reported to Spring
Training this season with the Philadelphia Phillies, but was traded to the New York Yankees on March 27. He is currently
playing at AAA Columbus. Marcus enjoys writing about his experiences and has been kind enough to share some of
his memoirs with us.
April 8, 2003
It has been about two weeks since I came over from the Phillies in a blockbuster trade for that infamous player to
be named, which incidentally never seemed to make the transaction wire. Upon my arrival to Tampa from Clearwater, which
is the difference of about twenty minutes, I met with Rob Thompson of the Yankees.
Rob seems to hold several
titles with the organization, none of which are very clear but I gathered among them was the minor league coordinator.
It seems that there are several people in the Yankees organization with a title of some sort and everyone appears to be V.I.P.
Rob, in full uniform welcomed me to the Yankees and then introduced me to a few people before I took a seat in his office.
He explained the situation in triple A and what my role would be. They have a young prospect, Michel Hernandez,
who he said would catch "four times a week." This is his first season on the roster and he only spent half the
season last year in triple A. Rob told me that they wanted someone with experience to come up if something happened
at the major league level.
My role over here is not exactly what I had hoped for, but is a better situation than I
would have been in with the Phillies in triple A, or worse case scenario, sitting at home waiting for a better opportunity.
My only comfort relies on the hopes that my name will be the one called should something happen in New York. Even
though it has been four games into the season, I think I have maintained a pretty good attitude so far. In my first
game I hit a home run in a 4-3 loss to my former team Indianapolis. Check with me in June or July when we have about
100 games under our belt to see if my role has changed and my attitude is still intact. Actually, check with me next
Further into the season.....
team that I have rooted against at every opportunity is now the same team that pays my bills. Irony? Maybe. I grew up an avid
Dodger fan among Giants and A's fans only to be drafted by the SF Giants. More irony or does baseball just have a cruel
sense of humor? Besides the S.F. Giants, the only other Dodger rivalry that brought the same type of intensity,
but on a much larger scale was the Dodgers and the Yankees. Not liking the Yankees came hand in hand with not liking
the Giants. That is just how it is.
The Yankees are the type of team that you either love or hate. They are
too much of a fixture in baseball history to feel indifferent about. Where I am from, you don't root for the Yankees.
I never rooted for the Yankees, especially not as a Dodger fan growing up. Those heated Dodger Yankee rivalries during
the 70's and early 80's may have instilled a dissension in me at an early age. Watching footage of Reggie Jackson smack
three home runs against three different Dodger pitchers in one World Series game is incredible in terms of personal achievement
and for a Yankee fan, but is enough to make a Dodger fan sick. That same man that built his name Mr. October on
World Series heroics, can now be found visiting Yankees minor league teams sharing stories and knowledge about hitting and
the game of baseball.
And so, the twist and turns of my career have now landed me in
the Yankees organization where I find myself sitting in a triple A clubhouse with fellow minor leaguers watching the Yankees
on the YES (Yankee Entertainment Station) station. I am joined with those who either watch as supporters of the Yankees
or watch in support of friends. Having come over at the end of spring training and going directly to minor league camp
did not give me the opportunity to become acquainted with any of the Yankees or form the relationships that some of these
other guys have already established. So I sit among them watching more as a spectator than anything else. No longer
the Dodger fan that I once was as an idolizing kid, that early dissension I had before is now more of an envy and appreciation
for winning. I do however recognize, and am fully aware, that there is an obvious separation between the Yankees and
where I am at. I am a Columbus Clipper and there is work that needs to be done here. Maybe before the year is
over an opportunity will present itself in New York.
I have played for a number different organizations, but none
of which compare to the history and pride of the Yankees. Since my experience with the Dodgers in 2001 was short lived,
having only lasted throughout spring training, I can't honestly say that I got a true feel for Dodger blue. After being
traded from the Giants in 1997, I have bounced around from team to team year after year. Although the name across the
front of my jersey may be the team that employees me, it could only be a matter of time before I am donning a new jersey somewhere
else. Jokingly, I tell friends not to go out and buy paraphernalia unless they planned on replacing it the following
year. It has become somewhat of the ongoing joke among family and friends. "So who are you going to be with this
Every other organization I have been a part of measures the Yankees success as the standard to measure up to.
Teams looking to improve constantly make reference to the Yankees and how they go about winning as if they have mastered some
winning formula. History shows that the Yankees franchise is the most successful in all of baseball. In 38 World
Series appearances which is impressive by itself, they have won 26 World Championships. That is seventeen more Championships
than the St. Louis Cardinals or the Philadelphia/Oakland Athletics who are second to the Yankees. In the last six years
alone, they have won four championships in five World Series appearances and are making a strong bid at recapturing another
title this year.
With all of this success and history, it is no wonder that players jump at the opportunity of becoming
a Yankee. All Star players who have not won in other organizations must find it difficult to even consider going elsewhere
when pursued by the Yankees. Granted the figures being thrown around these days are undeniable and the Yankees have
the type of money to entice anyone. But even beyond the money, there is a certain prestige and respect for the pin stripes,
a real sense of pride in wearing a Yankee uniform. When you think of all the Yankee greats, players such as Babe Ruth,
Mickey Mantle, Joe Dimaggio, Lou Gehrig, Mr. October himself, Reggie Jackson and so many more, it is these names that make
up the rich tradition of the franchise. If you don't feel the history just by walking into Yankee Stadium as I did as
a visiting player, then Monument Park will give you a broader perspective of the history that is within the stadium.
Just behind left field is a section of plaques and memorials commemorating those Yankee legends that have made Yankee Stadium
what it is today.
I have played in Boston at Fenway park both as a Red Sox player and as a visitor, and have been
awed by the Green Monster in left field. Looking at all the dents that cover the entire wall put there by the countless
number of line drives and fly balls over the past 90 years is monumental in terms of the historical context of baseball.
There is no denying the history that is shown on that wall as well as within Fenway Park. But having said all of this,
it still does not compare to the history and the events that have taken place within Yankee stadium.
Forbes magazine, the New York Yankees are estimated at being worth around $849 million dollars. That is almost twice
as much as their neighboring counterparts, the New York Mets who are second to the Yankees at $498 million. The money that
is generated through revenue and TV sharing allows the organization to spend freely on all accounts. Whether it is bringing
in high priced free agents or spending the extra dollar to land highly touted foreign imports, money has never been an issue
when it comes to doing what it takes to win on the field. Winning in a big market city equals big dollars for the franchise.
The money invested into the minor league system is only a reflection of the money generated at the major league level.
You have to commend the Yankees for taking pride in the quality of their personnel as well as their minor league system.
Over the past couple of years and now as a member, I have spoke with a number of players from the Yankees minor leagues.
Whether it is guys who have come up through the system, or who have signed on as free agents, all have said the Yankees are
a first class organization. They are willing to spend the money that other organizations refuse to or don't have.
Other organizations are constantly budgeting and therefore pinching pennies with their minor leagues.
(Oakland A's for example) have a maximum salary that they are willing to pay to minor league free agents. The Yankees,
on the other hand, are able to pay their minor league free agents relatively well, which only may vary depending on major
league experience and their value to the club. A guy in triple A with the Yankees has an opportunity to make substantially
more than someone who is with an organization that has a maximum salary.
This, however, does not apply to everyone
on a Yankee triple A roster. There are several guys who make very little, and their biggest challenge is not on the
field, but how to make ends meet at home. Some of these guys have families to support and their checks are hardly enough
to pay their bills. So despite all of my challenges in baseball, I consider myself fortunate knowing that my situation
could have always been more difficult.
The reality is that a large percentage of the Yankees minor league system will
never reach New York, at least not as a Yankee. Most will probably never make the major leagues altogether while those
with trading value will be used to acquire more experienced major league players. There are the few exceptions, the
Derek Jeters, the Alfonso Sorianos and Bernie Williams, who have managed to come up through the system and who now make up
the nucleus of the New York Yankees.
Although these guys are far and few in between. The rest of the Yankees
are composed of mainly high priced free agents brought in to solidify their spot atop of the American League. It is
because of this that the Yankees have the luxury of grooming one player every few years to come up through the minors to eventually
make his way onto the team. They have seldom, if ever, had a surplus of young players on their team at one time.
is known from top to bottom that George Steinbrenner runs the show and runs a tight ship. Anything and everything that
has to do with the Yankees goes through Steinbrenner first. His presence is now being felt even more so at the triple
A level. Word has come down from the top that Steinbrenner has grown weary of the Clippers losing ways and expects
better results from the team. Apparently Steinbrenner is from Columbus and would like to see some of the same success
here that he has become accustomed to in New York.
For the past three or four years, the Clippers have not played
up to expectations and have suffered through disappointing seasons. Each of the past few years, a new manager and set
of coaches were brought in as a result of the previous year in hopes that year will be different than the last. This
year, former Yankee manager Bucky Dent was hired on as the new Clippers manager. Once again, the Clippers are off to a slow
start, having gone 13-19 in the first month. Although there are signs of improvement, as the team has managed to put
together a few more wins within the last week.
I have also struggled in the first month. In limited duty, I
have been unable to find any rhythm or timing or any type of feel at the plate. One good thing is that since I have
a limited number of at bats, all I have to do is string together a few good games to be where I need to be. It has been
difficult on all accounts.
Now that I have had a full month to adjust to my role, it has been just as difficult as I anticipated.
Not playing is never an easy assignment whether it is in the majors or minors. But, the paychecks and the major league lifestyle
make not playing a whole lot easier to accept. Being a backup has virtually gone hand in hand with being in the major
leagues. That has just been the nature of my career. Part of being able to accept being in the minors, however,
is having the opportunity to play regularly. Once they take that opportunity to play away, you can't help but question
not only your value to the club, but your direction and future in baseball. It forces you to seriously reevaluate your
career and look into your future beyond baseball. Has thirteen years of playing lead me to this?
I try to remind
myself that as long as I am wearing a uniform, I have an opportunity. My love for the game and having more to prove
is the driving force behind what keeps me coming back year after year. Again, this is one of those defining moments
of perseverance that I am challenged with. I can look at this one of two ways. This could be a blessing allowing
me to really spend time and work emphatically on those inconsistencies that have kept me from being a mainstay in the big
leagues. Or this could be the death of me trying to figure it out. One way or the other, I know I will have left all
that I have to give on the field when the season is over.....
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