Marcus Semien walked into one of the empty A’s offices at their headquarters at Jake London Square. “Don’t stand for me,” he said as he approached me and shook my hand.
My microphone was attached to something in a way where I was scared to move from my seat. If I did, the plug to the mic surely would break. I felt it was rude to not stand up and shake his hand, but I apologized to him. It was the first interview to my brand new podcast, so I was terrified to even breathe.
Semien then humbly joked about not being worthy of a greeting that involved me getting out of my chair. He couldn’t have been further from the truth.
After six seasons with the A’s, the Bay Area native will head to the Toronto Blue Jays on a one-year, $18 million deal, as first reported by ESPN’s Jeff Passan on Tuesday.
Naturally, we want to figure out who will take over the Semien on the diamond. Maybe Vimael Machin will fill in after a successful time in winter league ball, or perhaps we’ll be able to see Nick Allen’s defensive production at the Coliseum. But they can’t replicate who Semien was off the field.
He took me and the rest of the local media on a journey through a very interesting 2020 season where I learned about what it was like to be a Black man playing a sport with fewer faces that look like his every year.
Semien, along with the A’s, walked out in protest during two games last season in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement, but reminded us to never stop talking about it.
He also is working with MLB pitchers Tyson and Joe Ross and the organization Coaching Corps to focus on increasing the number of Black coaches in the local community. Semien said more Black representation in MLB starts from the youth.
I knew Semien was a leader among the A's players, but it was unique to see how he walked around the clubhouse and demanded respect in the most gracious way. Yet you still remembered the toughness that led to his league-leading 747 plate appearances in 2019, when he started all 162 games at shortstop -- a personal career goal of his -- and finished third in the AL MVP voting.
The A’s made it clear they wanted Semien to return. General manager David Forst told reporters at the end of the 2020 season he texted the shortstop to let him know he wanted to figure something out to have a reunion.
That didn’t happen.
Still, Semien told NBC Sports California in November that Oakland always will be a big part of his life and his family shares the same sentiments.
“I think my parents are most happy about that, just to hear good things about their son in their community," Semien said. "No matter what happens, if I’m not with Oakland or whatever, this is where I grew up and this is my community."
It’s fair to say the community will miss him.