OAKLAND — Two pieces of advice he heard over and over have resonated with Marcus Semien throughout his career: always work hard and always soak up as much info as you can from whomever you can.
Over the past two weeks, the man who offered the White Sox infielder that guidance has finally been able to see his son play in person.
Damien Semien, a former Division I wide receiver and Marcus Semien’s dad, traveled to Chicago earlier this month to see the rookie play. Then this week, when Marcus Semien made his first trip home as a professional ballplayer, Damien Semien, a peace officer at San Francisco’s Juvenile Hall, was in Oakland to watch the White Sox. To see his son realize a dream he also hoped to achieve has been a special experience for dad.
“It’s just all surreal,” Damien Semien said. “Every time I watch him on TV I pinch myself. (In Chicago) I actually got to sit there, and it might have been the second inning when it hit me, ‘That’s my son out there.’ A tear may have shed, but that’s when it hit me.”
Just like his son would 15 years later, Damien Semien attended Cal.
He spent four seasons playing football for the Golden Bears during their glory days, when the team won bowls in three of four seasons, including the 1992 Citrus Bowl, and finished with a No. 8 ranking in the final AP poll.
An all-around athlete, Damien Semien was a track star and played basketball, baseball and football at San Francisco Riordan High. He caught 73 passes for Cal, including 32 for 515 yards and five touchdowns in his senior year.
But Damien Semien wasn’t drafted, and Marcus Semien said the basis for one of the key pieces of advice he has received from his dad stems from that.
“He tells me a lot, make sure you work hard so you don’t have any regrets,” Marcus Semien said. “(The NFL) was obviously his goal as a college football player. He didn’t make it. He said if he would have worked harder certain days, to work out instead of doing other things, that he might have gotten into the NFL. I really take that into consideration when I’m thinking about what I do with my day, how I work, how I get my priorities right.”
Also a basketball star at Berkeley St. Mary’s High, Marcus Semien said his father was excited about the prospect of his son playing baseball only once he reached Cal. Instead of trying to play and learn multiple sports, Marcus Semien could focus on just one. Baseball wasn’t just the sport Marcus Semien was always best at; it was the one Damien Semien sensed he his son had a true passion for.
“He was one of those kids playing T-ball to where he played shortstop, but he would fly over to second base to take the ball from the other kid,” Damien Semien said. “We’d have to tell, ‘Marcus, no, you can’t do that.’ But all the other parents were like, ‘Let him. Let him.’ He had a knack for it. He loved it. I can remember nights when he would stay with me he’d be sleeping with his glove. Little things like that.”
That’s why Damien Semien has always been willing to offer his son a tidbit of advice here or there. That’s why he encourages Marcus Semien to keep learning from anyone who will elicit information. It doesn’t matter if its baseball technique or how another player handles preparation for a road trip — all of it is pertinent to his career.
“Anything you can learn, just keep learning,” Damien Semien said. “Keep learning. Keep learning. And if you can stay as a sponge that will get you a long way.”
Marcus Semien said he never found his father’s advice to be too much. He said Damien Semien could relate his experiences at Cal to his son’s and suggest how he manage his time between athletics and education and how to use the resources he had at his disposal.
“He’s good about it,” Marcus Semien said. “He’s been through it. He’s been my age as an athlete.”
Damien Semien didn’t reach this level. But his son has, and he couldn’t be more proud.
“I’m standing right here (in Oakland) watching him with all these great players,” Damien Semien said. “He’s here. ‘Let’s keep working hard to stay here.’ It’s heartwarming to me that he’s having a chance to live out his childhood dream. He’s not doing it for me. He’s not doing it for his mom. He’s doing it for him. That’s great.”