The Atlanta Braves announced that they are returning to Dodger Stadium, and the start of their final season there will be special. Kenley Jansen addressed his return in a press conference on Tuesday before Game 1 against San Diego Padres.
Kenley Jansen has no intention of making a shift. He’d accomplished a near-impossible feat in contemporary sports: steadiness, and he felt pleased to have maintained it for so long. He’d worked with the Los Angeles Dodgers for 17 years, almost half his life. Twelve of those years were spent in the big leagues. He’d surpassed his father as the franchise’s all-time saves leader. He had a lovely home near the Pacific Ocean, where he and his lovely wife, as well as his four children, resided. When he went to an NBA game, he had a usual seat close to Los Angeles Lakers owner Jeanie Buss. Even the three-story playhouse he constructed in his garden was picture-perfect.
Jansen stated, “When you ask about the Dodgers, it was family to me.” “That was the extent of my knowledge. That’s all I’ve ever known about baseball. I owe them a debt of gratitude for all they’ve done in my life. This youngster was signed, and he grew into a man. A father of four children, a spouse, and a man.”
He intended to re-sign with the Dodgers as soon as the lockout ended this winter.
Jansen explained, “That was Option A.”
That was also the Dodgers’ strategy.
“We have a great lot of regard for Kenley the person, Kenley the competitor, and it was an off-season goal for us to bring him in,” said Andrew Friedman, the Dodgers’ president of baseball operations. “Retaining him was a top objective for us heading into the off-season.”
According to all accounts, the Dodgers made a genuine effort to keep him, and he made a genuine effort to return.
It simply didn’t work out. He sought a three-year contract, but the Dodgers were only interested in one or two. The parties continued to communicate, but the arithmetic grew more tricky once the Dodgers signed Freddie Freeman, since they were so near to the luxury tax that they’d have to transfer payroll to provide Jansen the sort of contract he wanted. Because of the shortened free agency that followed the lockout, Jansen began to be concerned that he might lose offers from other clubs while waiting on the Dodgers.
The reigning World Series champion Atlanta Braves, the club he’d grown up cheering for in Curacao, then came calling with a lucrative one-year, $16 million offer that needed to be responded to quickly.
As the strain mounted, Jansen began to contemplate Option B for the first time. He took a deep breath, like he has many times on the mound, spoke with his wife, Gianni, and decided to continue on and hopefully ahead.
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Jansen remarked, “It was quite emotional leaving.” “Extremely moving. However, when possibilities present themselves in your life, you must seize them or you will always wonder what would have happened if you hadn’t. Because such chances don’t always present themselves.”
When he informed his teammates and coaches that he was leaving, there was anguish all around. When he was chatting to Justin Turner and Clayton Kershaw, he started crying. And he expects to be emotional when he returns to Dodger Stadium on Monday, when the Braves open a three-game series in Los Angeles.
The Braves, on the other hand, were the one club he could see himself leaving the Dodgers for.
“I recall watching the Twins and the Braves in the World Series in 1992 when I was five years old in Curacao,” Jansen added. “I was a huge admirer of Fred McGriff, Andruw Jones, David Justice, Sid Bream, and a long list of other players.” The TBS Superstation was available to us!
“As a result, I’m not going to take anything for granted. I’m going to appreciate every day that I get to wear this outfit, and when the time comes, perhaps we’ll win a title here again this year.”
Jansen was also ecstatic because, for the first time in over two decades, he was facing a fresh task in a new location.
He described it as “going back to your early days when you initially got to the big leagues.”
It’s worth reminiscing about Jansen’s early days in the major leagues at this point in the tale. He was 21 years old at the time, and the year was 2010. He’d walked into Charlie Hough’s bullpen in Class A San Bernardino, California, less than a year before to see whether he had enough skill in his right arm for the Dodgers’ minor league coaches to invest in the time and effort to teach him how to throw. Most evaluators decided after five seasons in the minors that he would never be more than a light-hitting catcher. When someone attempted to steal second base, though, there was something about the manner he tossed the ball to second base.
In 2010, Hough remarked, “He’d drop to his left knee and throw it to second harder than our pitcher.”
The first strategy didn’t pan out. The Dodgers, on the other hand, were offering an alternative: learn to pitch and stay with the team. The Dodgers were eager to give him an opportunity to grow if he was willing to change.
“That was difficult for me as well,” Jansen remarked. “I had no desire to be a pitcher. I used to work as a catcher. But, hey, if a fantastic chance presents itself, you must seize it.”
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Jansen had an abnormal heartbeat during a four-game series in Colorado around the same time. He’d been diagnosed with atrial fibrillation in 2011 and underwent surgery in October 2012, which seemed to have resolved the problem for the most part. However, when it resurfaced in 2018, he had a roughly six-hour surgical surgery over the offseason. It took a long time to recuperate. Jansen couldn’t lift weights or exercise like he used to for months. He also had to radically alter his diet, which has been beneficial to his general health but has set the stage for a poor year in 2019.
Even though Jansen recorded 33 saves that season, his ERA was a career-high 3.71.
He remarked, “I came out [in spring training] throwing 88-89.” “It played havoc with my psyche.”
He knew he’d regain his velocity and strength once he could train in the off-season like he used to, but he also knew he’d have to change his attitude to throwing, both on and off the mound. He began counseling with a sports psychologist to help him digest everything that had happened the previous season, including the booing from the Dodger Stadium audience. With the loss of his velocity and power, he’d felt a sense of invincibility. He’d never had a problem with the pressure of finishing huge games, but he’d never had to finish without his best stuff.
His wife advised that he learn a new talent to divert his attention away from baseball. As a result, he chose to enroll in the Torrance Arts Academy for piano lessons.
It started off as a game and a way to unwind. But it quickly became into much more.
“It’s been really beneficial to me,” Jansen added. “It helped me think more clearly since you can’t be sidetracked while working with music.”
He purchased a Steinway and began practicing at home, even video his sessions so he could review them afterwards, just like he did with his pitching. He opted to study bass guitar the next year while stranded at home due to the epidemic and has grown equally devoted.
He remarked, “It helps me a lot psychologically, to concentrate better.” “Thoughts may be deceiving. You must learn how to beat them. You’re battling them while I’m playing music, and you’re not even aware of it because you’re so concentrated on what you’re doing, ‘Right here, right now.’ And it maintains me in that ‘Right here, right now’ state.
“So when I go outdoors for a run, I’ll be thinking, ‘Right here, right now.’ What can I do to improve my running? What can I do to improve my self-discipline? ‘Right now, right now.’ That’s all that counts when it comes to the ninth inning or whatever inning you want me to throw.”
He’s been telling himself that phrase a lot during the last several days. Jansen has thrown three shutout innings since his shaky start in Atlanta, including two saves against the Padres. Jansen gave up three runs in the ninth inning, but the Braves still won 7-6. He’s saying it even louder this week, knowing he’ll be back at Dodger Stadium soon.
The feeling will surface, and he will let it to.
He’ll sprint out of the visitor bullpen and onto the mound if the Braves hold a lead heading into the bottom of the ninth. It will feel similar in some respects. Others will find it absolutely alien. After 12 years of hearing “California Love,” he jogs to the mound with no music playing.
Jansen, on the other hand, has seen enough change in his career to know that the best thing to do at such circumstances is to be as present and open as possible. Instead of dwelling on what could’ve or should’ve been, he should accept what was, welcome the new, and see where that route will lead him. Perhaps this alteration was also intended to be.
He said, “Let’s see how it feels.” “All I’m going to do is attempt to be ‘Right here, Right now.’”