Simply Baseball Notebook, etc.

Marcus' Memoirs: Introduction

Career Paths
Marcus' Memoirs

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).

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.

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 week....

Further into the season.....

The very 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 year?"

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.

According to 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.

Several organizations (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.

It 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.....

-Marcus Jensen


Jensen @

Simply Baseball Notebook

DISCLAIMER: All pictures are assumed to be in the public domain. No violation of copyright is intended here. If one of the photos above is not in the public domain, please notify us and it will be removed.