Top 100 Baseball Blog

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Jimmy Serrano: Former Pitcher Recalls His More Than a Decade in Professional Baseball

Right-handed pitcher Jimmy Serrano came to professional baseball with little fanfare. However, he stuck around for more than a decade and even spent some time in the major leagues. All in all, it was a good baseball career.

Serrano was drafted in the 18th round by the Montreal Expos in 1998 out of the University of New Mexico. A reliever, he posted strong numbers and progressed steadily, but never got the call to Montreal.

In March, 2002, he was traded with outfielder Jason Bay to the New York Mets, but never got to the big-league level with them. After his rights were bought by the Kansas City Royals in July, 2003, he finally landed with the team that would give him his big chance.

The Royals decided to covert Serrano to a starter after six years of strictly coming out of the bullpen. The results were strong and in 2004 the Royals gave the righty his big-league shot. Called up in August, he made a total of 10 appearances, including five starts, with the team. He more than held his own, going 1-2 with a 4.68 ERA with 25 strikeouts in 32.3 innings.

Serrano didn’t fit into the Royals’ long-term plans and he was allowed to leave as a free agent after the season. He wound up bouncing around, playing in the organizations of the Oakland Athletics, Boston Red Sox and Florida Marlins. He also played in Korea and independent ball before calling it a career after the 2009 season.

In 11 years as a professional pitcher across all levels, he was a combined 60-48 with a 3.51 ERA and 58 saves.

Keep reading for more, as Serrano discusses some of his memories and triumphs in baseball and shares what he is up to now.

Who was your favorite player when you were growing up, and why?Kirby Puckett.  I grew up in Grand Junction, Colorado, home of the Junior College World Series. Kirby came through when I was a kid and I followed his career in the big leagues.

Can you please describe what your draft experience was like, being taken in the 18th round by the Expos in 1998?:  I had talked to about 10 different organizations prior to the draft and was told I would likely be selected near the 15th round. I was at my parents’ house hanging out with my brother-in-law when the phone rang. It was a scout from the Expos, a team that I had not previously spoken with, and he said ‘congratulations we selected you in the 18th round of the MLB draft, 534th pick overall.’  Then he asked, ‘are you interested in playing professional baseball?’  Of course, I said yes.  I hung up the phone, told my brother-in-law and then celebrated the news with my family.

You played for Cape Fear and Vermont in your first professional season; how much difference was their between the two experiences?:  When I went to Vermont right after the draft, I was eager to prove myself. After a short stint there, I was promoted to Cape Fear. During that promotion, my manager gave me some of the best advice that would come into play my entire career. He said, no matter what level you reach, never think you don’t belong there. There was a slight difference in levels, but I tried to stay consistent.

What do you remember most about your major league debut (against the Anaheim Angels)?: The day was filled with excitement, nervousness, and an overall surreal feeling. The strangest thing was watching ESPN the morning of my debut and seeing my name on the ticker as the Royals starting pitcher. Serrano vs.
[Bartolo] Colon.

You struck out two future Hall of Famers at the major league level-
Ichiro and Vlad Guerrero. Reflecting on that, which do you consider the greater accomplishment, and why?: They are equally tough hitters because they can hit any pitch in any count in any location.  I wish I could say that I had a strategy to strike them out but with those guys, there is no strategy. It's pretty much pitch and see what happens.

What is your favorite moment from your baseball career?:  Calling my family and friends to let them know that I was going to the big leagues. They were supporting me year after year and believed in me, it really felt like a group effort. Which it was.

What was it like to play in Korea?:  It was awesome! Great baseball, great teammates and I lived in a great area in Incheon. There were a few differences that I had to get used to like the 15-minute break after the fifth inning. The baseballs were not rubbed up and the pitching rubber had two levels - the actual pitching rubber and another level where your back foot goes.

What current or former player that you met or worked with were you most in awe of?:  I will say two former teammates,
Dustin Pedroia and Jon Lester. We had a standing card game on our bus trips and it was myself and Mike Bumatay against Pedey and Lester.  Those guys were fierce competitors on and off the field. It was fun watching them play early in their careers and knowing they were going to be special.  However, I am pretty sure Mike and I whooped ‘em in cards!
What, if anything, would you have done differently in your baseball career?: Good question.  I am satisfied with the overall outcome from a playing perspective but if I could go back, I would probably just soak it all in a little more.  It goes by so fast and the people you meet along the way are sometimes only in your life for a week or a couple seasons. There are really great bonds built between teammates in such a short time.

What are you up to these days?:  I have worked in Technology for the past five years, honing in on the Sports and Entertainment industry.  My experience as a player has flowed over to my post-playing career and continues to open up opportunities.  When I am not working, I am raising three amazing kiddos; two boys one girl, and when I am not doing that, you can likely find me on a golf course.

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You can check me out on Facebook or follow me on Twitter @historianandrew

I have also authored a number of books (eBook and paperback) on topics of baseball that are available on Amazon.

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