Home / News / Former A’s pick Semerano, 42, is attempting a comeback. Should Oakland sign him?

Former A’s pick Semerano, 42, is attempting a comeback. Should Oakland sign him?


He was in the same 2004 draft class as Justin Verlander, Dallas Braden, Dustin Pedroia and Hunter Pence. He is 42 years old and hasn’t shot on a professional diamond in a decade. He has had two Tommy John surgeries and coaches his two sons in Little League.

But when pitchers and catchers headed to Florida and Arizona for spring training this week, Rob Semerano felt overlooked. Left rear. Maybe a little victimized. But the former Athletics hopeful still hasn’t given up.

This is not a blind belief; There is solid evidence that Semerano has big league talent even at his age. Through determination, physical prowess, and a willingness to adopt the unorthodox strategies of a physics professor, Semerano routinely reaches speeds of 101 miles per hour with his radar gun; That’s faster than ever in the minor leagues. He threw it in front of Rangers officials this week and scored another try with the Yankees lined up.

As spring training continues, there aren’t too many guys sitting at home on their couches with fastballs reaching 100 mph. Semerano and those close to him were left wondering until the opportunity came: What’s stopping the A’s or any other team from extending a camp invitation?

“I haven’t heard from them, but I would love to play for the A’s again,” Semerano said. “I really love this organization, it’s the first organization that signed me, so obviously they have a special place in my heart. But no, I haven’t heard from them yet. And frankly, I would love to play for any major league team.”

Semerano’s former teammates in the A’s organization have no trouble remembering what he was like, even 20 years removed from the lower minor league levels. He had a cerebral approach, work ethic, and a quirky sense of humor.

He would joke with young fans in the stands during matches. He was doing imitations of Babe Ruth and other players. And despite having Tommy John surgery at Fordham University, he could throw hard.

“He always had a good drive on the fastball,” said MLB Network analyst Anthony Recker, who played with Semerano in 2006 and 2007. “Even back then he was scoring 95, 96 points.”

Semerano inched closer to the major leagues, moving from the Athletics’ farm system to the Yankees’ and then the Astros’ system. He participated in Houston’s major league spring camp in 2009, but suffered his second serious elbow injury, requiring Tommy John surgery. That was the end of his baseball career at age 28, or at least it was supposed to be that way.

Forced into retirement, Semerano started a youth baseball skills development company in his hometown of New Jersey. His MLB dreams never died, but he put them aside. Her divorce in 2021 changed her focus; He wanted to teach his two sons a lesson about facing challenges head on.

Braden, the A’s broadcaster who was selected by Oakland four rounds after Semerano, marvels at the 42-year-old’s drive.

“I think if you take a few minutes to understand his path and what he’s been through in his life and the idea that he’s trying to set an example for his children, there’s a lot more to it than just chasing it. it was a dream,” Braden said. “I believe you truly understand how important it was for him to do this and show his children that you never have to give up anything you love.”

Semerano set up a regular-sized pitching mound in his backyard in New Jersey and trained. By chance, he met Don Mueller, a chemical physics PhD holder who called him the “crazy sports professor.”

Mueller suggested a new shooting technique to Semerano that coaches hadn’t taught him: the neutral wrist. Always a curious thinker, Semerano listened to Mueller.

The A’s drafted Rob Semerano in the 20th round of the 2004 Draft, four rounds ahead of future star Dallas Braden.

Instead of the traditional crank motion, in which bowlers grasp the ball with a stiff wrist and throw it towards the goal, Mueller advised Semerano to hold the ball as loosely as possible, advance with his elbow, and strike with his wrist and forearm down. This movement creates more of a catapult or whipping motion, reducing pressure on the elbow. The arm is more like “Chuckit!” It moves like. Tennis ball launcher for dogs.

The physicist said that in six months of working with Mueller, Semerano’s fastball went from 91 mph to 101 mph. Even though he knew baseball was historically against the rules, Semerano’s neutral-wrist advance had Mueller screaming into the void.

“Why don’t people want to listen to this?” Mueller said.

It’s hard for Semerano to gauge how much Mueller’s advice has helped him. He is constantly experimenting with training methods, eating habits and workouts.

“But I know my arm is really affected: My arm feels great every day,” Semerano said. “I can throw and throw and throw and throw and my arm feels great. If there’s one thing that’s getting tired, it’s my legs.”

A lot of shooting is physics: how to use your body to get the most torque and therefore speed. The duo examined former A’s and Giants star Vida Blue, looking at her lower half. Mueller used former Giants ace Tim Lincecum as an example of a termination that puts the pitcher’s body at risk.

Mueller aggressively tried to encourage Semerano’s return. He calls in reporters and team officials to help his student and perhaps gain validation for his own unorthodox teachings.

Semerano’s story was documented in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Asbury Park Press and other outlets. Semerano started getting calls last August when a local New York CBS station put together a video and text package. Mueller said Semerano turned down the opportunity to pitch to the Globetrotters-like entertainment team, the Savannah Bananas.

More serious offers came in, leading to a recent tryout with the Rangers and a tryout with the New Jersey native Yankees on Feb. 14. Although a lower-body injury slowed Semerano’s speed to the mid-90s in front of the Rangers, Semerano said they were impressed.

“If this had happened two years ago, I would have signed you right now,” Semerano recalled the Texas scout saying, but roster limitations complicated the decision.

It costs almost nothing for an organization to offer a non-roster spring training invitation. Even a franchise like the A’s could easily afford that.

The irony of the Athletics not being among the clubs showing interest is that a talent like Semerano is exactly the type of talent that Billy Beane, who drafted and signed the right tackle in 2004, would pursue. He is an undervalued asset with a flaw, such as his age and injury history, that causes him to be written off.

“I mean, if a guy is throwing 101, he probably has the right eyes,” Recker said. “It probably wouldn’t hurt to bring him to camp.”

Braden noted that teams may be hesitant to give Semerano an opportunity because it could take his roster spot away from a young player or cause a distraction. Still, Semerano isn’t looking for a multi-year deal, just a chance. There are very few negatives.

Surrounded by dark clouds of incompetence, disloyalty and hostility to the fan base, the A’s may need a feel-good story. What could be better than a former prospect drawing comparisons to the movie “The Rookie,” based on the true story of a high school baseball coach who miraculously made his MLB debut at age 35?

All the A’s or any other team has to do to set a made-for-Hollywood story in motion is send out an invitation. They have nothing to lose.

“So you see 100, would you do it if you didn’t know who it was? Probably,” said Nationals coach and former Semerano teammate Tommy Everidge. “I think he has the character of someone worth signing. He’s always worked hard and he’s a stand-up guy. Why?”

Recker admitted that he didn’t have a lot of secondary pitches to play with Semerano’s fastball when they played. It is impossible for a team to understand whether this situation has changed in the 18 years since they put him on the field. The fastball itself is worth a look.

And if Semerano is only hitting 101 home runs in practice, what might it look like with major league coaching, facilities and workouts?

“When I think about observing pitchers over the last few years, whenever you hear the words 100, 102, right away, as a hitting coach, you’re going to focus on that guy and try to figure out how to beat him.” Everidge said. “So I don’t see why that wouldn’t be possible. Things are things.”

A more appropriate and modern comparison for Semerano might be Daniel Bard, not Jim Morris (“The Rookie”). The reliever remained out of major league attention for seven years despite a promising early career due to his mental and command struggles. But as a minor league coach, he learned more about the biomechanics of pitching and mounted a successful comeback in his late 30s.

As someone whose tenacity and mental strength helped him overcome difficult challenges, Bard’s comeback story was inspiring.

Semerano’s comeback story may have a different resonance for people who think their opportunities have run out.

“While it seems like there are a lot of doors that close on people of a certain age, the doors don’t close completely,” he said. “And if you try hard enough to attract attention, you can knock on those doors again.”


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