El Cerrito’s Semien brings a humble attitude in his bid to solve the A’s shortstop riddle 

OAKLAND — The body action is the same every time, like clockwork.

Whenever a nonteammate engages Marcus Semien, the thin 24-year-old straightens up, and, after a few seconds, his arms end up behind his back. His left hand grabs the opposite forearm, and he answers inquiries in an articulate, thought-out manner through a soft, mellow voice. When the questions cease, Semien’s arms drop then he thanks the other person and goes back about his business of preparing to be the A’s everyday shortstop.

“Respectful,” A’s manager Bob Melvin describes Semien. That demeanor and attitude have impressed the Oakland organization, from teammates to the front office. But what they are most excited about is their belief that he represents the team’s future at shortstop, a mostly hollow position since Miguel Tejada vacated it in 2003.

On Tuesday night, the A’s lost 3-1 to the Texas Rangers at O.co Coliseum. Semien went 0-for-3, but all spring and over the span of 18 innings in the regular season, he has made a favorable impression. Athletic and rangy with a revolver attached to his right shoulder, the front office believes he can stay there for the long term.

At this time last year, Addison Russell was thought to be the answer to the problem. But general manager Billy Beane, recognizing a window through which to pounce on an American League pennant, traded Russell for Jeff Samardzija in July.

Russell has since become a top-five prospect in all of baseball, and the Chicago Cubs are etching the passing days on office walls until he becomes a cornerstone of their rebuilding effort.

Meanwhile, that window slammed shut after one playoff game and the A’s were left with Samardzija’s pending free agency and no shortstop of the future. So, as he is prone to do, Beane acted swiftly. He dealt Samardzija to the Chicago White Sox as part of their own Windy City rebuild. Semien, a Bay Area native with an agile frame and offensive upside, was part of the return.

“We saw it from Day 1 — he’s got some power,” Melvin said. “Watching him move around, you might not think he has the type of power that he does. His position doesn’t usually come with a guy that has the potential to hit 20 home runs, which he has the ability to do.

“Whatever we get offensively is going to be a bonus right now, and I think we are going to be pleasantly surprised with what we get.”

The call to inform Semien came at 8 a.m. When he heard it was the A’s who had traded for him, the kid from El Cerrito simply smiled.

“I was very excited to have the opportunity to play back home in front of a lot of family and friends in a place that I’m so familiar with,” said Semien, who played at Cal and grew up about 18 miles from the Coliseum. “I was here in the Bay Area when it happened. It was a pretty special feeling being it was my hometown team.”

Semien made his A’s debut Monday in front of numerous family members and high school and college friends. He contributed a run-scoring single in the team’s first Opening Day win in 11 seasons.

Semien said the butterflies had been exterminated by the time he took the field, aided by a training camp filled with personable teammates who make it a priority to keep a loose clubhouse. It also helped that Semien was penciled in as the team’s shortstop as opposed to being uncertain for an entire month, which he was last year before an injury paved the way to his first Opening Day start with the White Sox.

Then again, no one would have noticed had Semien been at all nervous. Semien remembers being more nervous during his major-league debut when his idol, Derek Jeter, approached him as the top of the second inning ended moments after he picked up his first career hit.

“Oh, it’s just that easy, huh?” Jeter asked him, shooting a grin his way. A smile was all Semien could manage as the two jogged off in opposite directions. This was, after all, one of his baseball heroes giving a nod of approval.

Just as his new organization is doing now.

“It was crazy,” Semien said, noting his parents Tracy White and Damien Semien, along with watching Jeter, helped shape how he carries himself on and off the field. “It’s such a long season, you’re going to have ups and downs. Your mentality has to be the same.

“There’s been a lot of conversations with my mom, with my dad about being respectful, realizing baseball is a game, not life. You respect people, you respect the game. I knew I would be in trouble if I didn’t hold myself to that standard.”

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Anthony Witrado

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