SAN FRANCISCO -– Playing in a ballpark that brought back a flood of memories, Marcus Semien went out and created a new memory Thursday night.
What’s better than playing in the stadium you grew up watching games as a kid? How about homering in your first professional at-bat in that stadium?
Semien pulled it off, taking Giants right-hander Jake Peavy deep in the second inning to send the A’s on their way to an 8-2 victory at AT&T Park to open the Bay Bridge Series.
Storybook stuff. Now consider that Semien’s favorite player during his youth was Barry Bonds. He was in the stands when Bonds connected for his 700th career home run at AT&T Park. The pitcher who gave up that historic blast?
“I was talking to some of the guys about that,” Semien said. “It’s one of the moments I shared with my family, when Bonds hit that home run off Peavy. Then I faced him today, the first time playing in this stadium since college …”
You can’t make this stuff up. But thing is, even without Thursday’s homer, Semien is traveling a route that few big leaguers get to travel. He’s a Bay Area kid who played at a Bay Area college (Cal) and now gets a chance to continue his major league career for a Bay Area franchise.
[INSTANT REPLAY: A's pound out 12 hits, throttle Giants 8-2]
He never found a big league home with the White Sox. Then the A’s snatched him up, along with three other players, in the trade that sent Jeff Samardzija to Chicago. They showed faith by identifying him early on as their starting shortstop. And though it’s dangerous to put too much stock into spring training results, Semien, to this point, has been even better than they could have imagined.
He’s smooth in the field and has more range and a stronger arm than his predecessor, Jed Lowrie. He’s hitting an even .300 through 22 exhibitions. Semien hadn’t gone deep since homering twice in the Cactus League opener. Then he turned on a 1-0 fastball from Peavy and launched it high and deep over the left field wall in the top of the second.
“I had a lot of adrenaline up there,” he said. “Playing in front of a bigger crowd, playing in front of 30-something thousand people (actually 41,581), you’re a little bit more amped up. You react to it a little bit quicker.”
Semien was born in San Francisco, played Little League in El Cerrito and attended high school in Berkeley. He got to play at AT&T Park when Cal hosted a tournament there during his collegiate career. But the most special memories are from his youth watching Bonds and the Giants.
“He’s a local guy here,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “You get in front of the (local) crowd for the first time … I know it’s going to be special in Oakland the first time.”
That comes Saturday when the A’s host the Giants at the Coliseum. It will provide another lasting memory for Semien. But the smart money says it won’t be the final one he collects during the 2015 season.