A's Jensen proud to share heritage

Grandson of Negro Leagues alum reflects during Black History Month

A's Jensen proud to share heritage

OAKLAND -- There are few detailed records from the Negro Leagues era, many of the names lost in time except for those revived through stories, like the ones Marcus Jensen heard as a youngster from his grandfather.

Jensen, the A's assistant hitting and catching coach, is the proud grandson of the late Arthur "Mickey" Kemper, a Negro Leagues alum who caught for the Toledo Crawfords, once considered baseball royalty.

It's no coincidence that Jensen, too, became a catcher. He was a first-round Draft pick by the Giants in 1990 and made his big league debut six years later, ultimately playing for seven teams across seven seasons.

Jensen, an Oakland native, says it was his mother who first convinced him to try out baseball -- "Just to get me out of the house and be more social," he recalled -- but it was Kemper who instilled in him a passion for the history of the game. He also took a young Jensen, who used to hit rocks in his backyard with his grandfather's old bats, to his first Little League game.

"Any time I have a chance to shed light on his career and just the Negro Leagues period, in general, I'm more than happy to do that," Jensen said. "I couldn't appreciate it as much as when I started getting older and understood the magnitude of that stage. Of course, now, it's a historical part of the game and, even though it was a small period of time, it's been instrumental in the development of Major League Baseball to what it is today."

Kemper introduced Jensen to the many names that are now synonymous with the Negro Leagues period, names Jensen was able to see on display during a visit to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum last year when the A's were in Kansas City.

The museum had been on his bucket list for some time.

"As I got older," Jensen said, "probably closer to high school and beyond, that's when I really started to dig into that history and start to identify names and teams during that period."

Black History Month is a time to reflect on this history, a practice Jensen likes to exercise year-round.

"My grandfather couldn't understand the modern-day catcher, his equipment," he said, laughing. "When he played, everything was different as far as the gloves. Everyone caught with two hands because of the shape of the glove and the depth of the pocket, so he was constantly making comparisons to the modern-day game versus when he played."

Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.