Simply Baseball Notebook memoirs Feb 2004

The 2003 Season: Part I

-photo by Kyla Baldwin

"Maybe next year" is a phrase that is often uttered within the sports world. It centers around the idea that maybe next year, either as a team or individually, you will accomplish what you did not achieve in the past year. You then set out to make the necessary changes that will help you or your team achieve its goal. Teams looking to either compete, remain competitive or gain an edge will add players, get rid of players or change managers or coaches -- anything that may increase their chances for success.

With all the teams I've played for, I have yet to walk into the clubhouse at the beginning of Spring Training and not get the feeling that the team feels as though they are capable of being successful that season. From the players to the coaches and manager, to team officials and personnel, a new year brings on a fresh attitude and renewed hope for everyone. Any changes that occurred during the offseason are "steps in the right direction" -- last season is in the past and the focus is on the present and the future.

The potential life span of a professional baseball player is longer than most other major sports, but the window of opportunity is still limited compared to most careers. Some players careers last longer than others and for those who are still trying to make their way, it becomes essential that they make the most of every opportunity. No one wants to be that player that looks back on certain opportunities with regrets.

I recognize that I have been fortunate to have played for thirteen years now. I also know that I am capable of doing so much more. I know my numbers have never been reflective of my potential and each year I strive to learn what that potential is. All of that has left me wondering what I am truly capable of. I have turned thirty-one this past offseason, and the promise of being a 23-year-old prospect no longer exists for me, but I still possess the drive and willingness to continue get better each season. My time frame has to be now, I no longer have the luxury of waiting until next year to make something happen.

Last year, I made a pledge to myself to do things differently. If I wanted to improve my game and become better, I needed to make a change. I was not yet sure what the change would be, but I was convinced some change was in store. I have heard on a number of occasions that "you cannot repeat the same things over and over again and expect different results." Every year I am confronted with evaluating my season and seeing how I can build or improve upon it. I have always been willing to make adjustments and changes for the sake of improving, even if it might mean that I may fail miserably in the process.

I started off by ordering different bats than I normally would, different size, different weight, different model -- different everything. During the offseason I came across a 34 1/2 inch, 33 ounce Trot Nixon (Boston Red Sox) model bat in my collection of bats that I have accumulated over the years. I immediately noticed a difference in weight and size between the Trot Nixon model and the model I usually swing. From my very first day in the minor leagues, I have always used a 34 inch 32 ounce bat. The model may have varied throughout the years, but the size and weight has remained the same. In the Minor Leagues, and especially at the rookie level, there were very few models available, so players did not have much of a selection to choose from. Anyway, despite the difference in size and weight, I liked how it felt in my hands and began to use it during batting practice.

I then started rationalizing why it would make sense for me to swing a heavier bat. At six feet four inches tall, I should be able to handle a heavier bat and generate some power. You hear all the stories about the old timers swinging heavier bats, Babe Ruth swung a 35 inch, 36 ounce bat and 714 homeruns later he is one of the most beloved figures in baseball history. They say all you have to do is get the head of the bat to the ball and it will go. I was not hanging my hopes that this would be my key to immediate success at the plate, but it was an adjustment worth experimenting with.

I remember swinging a much heavier bat a few years ago and having some immediate success with it. A few line drives here and there, and suddenly I thought I was on to something. However, with time, as I became more comfortable with the weight, the hits were becoming farther and fewer between. Whether it was the size or weight of the bat, I don't know for sure, but after an 0 for 27 slump in the big leagues, the bat could have very well been swinging me.

Today I am a different player, or at least I am supposed to be. Bigger, stronger and smarter; smart enough to know not to make the same mistakes again. So along with switching to a heavier bat, I started tinkering with my batting stance. You often begin to remember what worked for you in the past and then try to recreate that same feeling. "Well, maybe if I do this, then this will happen, or maybe if I do that, then it will allow me to do this." They say hitting is more mental than anything else.

Very few of us are blessed with the natural ability to hit. There are what you call "pure hitters," they get out of bed hitting line drives. The rest of us have to continue to work and work and tinker and tinker. I always feel like I'm just one adjustment away from putting it all together. It's just a matter of finding what that one adjustment is and how many adjustments I'll have to make before then.

Anyway, it didn't take long for me to realize that swinging a heavier bat was not the answer. In Spring Training, I was finding that I was overmatched by a good fastball and was not generating the power I had hoped for. So much for being a smarter hitter. I continued to tinker with my batting stance into the season, trying to find a comfort level at the plate.

-Marcus Jensen

Editor's note: Look for Part II of IV in the March issue.

About Marcus: 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.

Throughout 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. 

Jensen's career stats @


Marcus Jensen's Baseball Odyssey

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