The Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association (MLBPAA) has announced that shortstop Marcus Semien is the Oakland Athletics’ 2019 Heart and Hustle Award winner.
The award honors active players who demonstrate a passion for the game of baseball and best embody the values, spirit and traditions of the game. It’s the only award in baseball voted on by former players.
“Marcus shows up ready to prepare and play the game every day,” said Athletics bench coach Ryan Christenson. “He is a valuable player and leader for the A’s.”
Four years after committing a franchise-record 35 errors, Semien has not only become one of the most reliable players on the A’s, but one of the more sure-handed shortstops in the league. He’s committed just six errors in the field, and at the plate, as Oakland’s everyday leadoff man, is among the American League leaders in hits (106) and is on pace to hit a career-best 24 homers.
Semien is putting up career-best numbers in batting average (.272) and OPS (.799), and is on pace for career highs in runs (107) and RBIs (84). If he picks up his pace in the final 67 games, he could be the first Oakland shortstop since Miguel Tejada to tally 200 hits. Tejada had 204 in 2002, and Semien, with 106, is on pace for 181.
When Semien — a graduate of Albany-St. Mary’s and the starting shortstop on Cal’s 2011 College World Series team — came to Oakland from the Chicago White Sox in the Jeff Samardzija trade, he was a bench player with offensive upside, but was inconsistent with the glove.
He worked with then-A’s infield coach Ron Washington daily, five hours before game time. The two would work on pre-pitch positioning, hand angle and stride length. Even with Washington no longer with the team, Semien continues to take pre-game grounders with great zeal. He’s now 10th among all Major League shortstops in defensive runs saved, and fourth in the American League. He’s third among all shortstops in ultimate zone rating, and third among all American League defenders in the SABR Defensive Index rankings.
To decide on each team’s award, the MLBPAA formed 30 committees, comprised of Alumni players with established relationships to each team. One player from each Major League team is chosen by the committees based on their passion, desire and work ethic demonstrated both on and off the field.
Semien — who was featured on his own “Rooted in Oakland” giveaway t-shirt earlier this homestand — will be recognized prior to an upcoming home game. As the season moves toward its conclusion, fans, all Alumni and active players will vote to select the final winner from the 30 team winners. The winner will be announced on Nov. 7, 2019 at the 20th Annual Legends for Youth Dinner in New York. No A’s player has won the overall award.