Former Oakland Athletic Jemile Weeks recently sat down to talk about his upcoming community event, Christmas on the Boulevard, which takes place Dec. 21 in Eatonville, Fla. Afterward, he took some time to discuss being traded to the Baltimore Orioles.
The A's traded Weeks and minor-league catcher David Freitas for closer Jim Johnson on Dec. 3.
In Johnson, Oakland maintains a stout bullpen and efficiently replaces Grant Balfour. The Orioles meanwhile are thought to have made the move to shed Johnson's $10 million-plus contract.
In talking about the trade, Weeks provided some insight into what it's like as a player—hearing the news, the process and more.
Here is a player's perspective, courtesy of Weeks.
Weeks hit .303 his rookie year. But in 2012 his batting average dropped to .221. The A's sent him down near the end of the season, and then he spent the majority of 2013 in Triple-A.
Oakland has several options at second base.
Eric Sogard and Alberto Callaspo finished 2013 as platoon starters, and the A's signed Nick Punto shortly after the season ended. Additionally, Jed Lowrie, Hiroyuki Nakajima and Andy Parrino are options.
Weeks played games at shortstop and in center field with the Sacramento River Cats last season. But the experience likely was intended to get himself back to the majors quicker, rather than increase his trade value.
Weeks is an East Coast resident, so when he found out, it was about 11:30 p.m. ET on Monday, Dec. 2. The first call came from A's assistant general manager David Forst. Orioles general manager Dan Duquette called 15 minutes later.
Interestingly, Weeks said the conversation did not involve his role.
[The Orioles] basically told me they were happy to have me, that they look forward to...everything that they have for me, but right now to just go ahead and enjoy the opportunity and we’ll be talking later. So I really haven’t gotten into the logistics of my role yet.
So at this point it's unclear whether Weeks will compete for second base or report to Triple-A. Although it should be assumed that he will at least report to spring training with an opportunity to prove himself in Baltimore.
On if he had heard his own name in trade rumors:
I didn’t really know that I would even be in the position to be traded at this point. I heard certain things about being traded but I wasn’t really up to date on what team I might possibly go to. It all caught me by surprise when they called me
Everyone handles change differently. But the one constant? It fills the affected individual with emotion. Some get angry. Some wonder if they've done anything wrong. Others look forward to the opportunity.
Weeks took it in stride:
"It all caught me by surprise. It was just a feeling of excitement and somewhat surreal for me because it’s a blessing I think, that I didn’t see coming."
He continued, saying that at first he had no words. Instead, he simply reminded himself to be thankful for the opportunity to play in Baltimore.
While we hold professional athletes to a high standard and tack on superstar status, at the end of the day, they're still human. So it shouldn't come as a surprise that the first call Weeks made—when he finally found the words—was to his mom and dad.
Like most major life changes, there can be pros and cons. Weeks leaves the team that drafted him, the first and only team he has played for. On the other hand, he now gets a fresh start.
One of the major benefits for Weeks is playing closer to home. His family resides near Orlando, Fla., just a two-hour flight to Baltimore. Best of all, spring training will be held in Sarasota, Fla., a two-hour drive for his family. And if Weeks should find himself in Triple-A (Norfolk, Va.) at any point, it's still closer than Oakland.
Playing in the AL East also means a couple of series against Tampa Bay, too.
Being on the West Coast, it’s very limited how much contact you have with your family. I have a pretty close-knit family, so to be on the East Coast, time frames work out better, distance works out better and the fact they can catch every game whether it be a flight or a drive to Tampa makes a world of difference for us.
The Orioles also play the Milwaukee Brewers in May, so Weeks may get an opportunity to play against his brother, Rickie.
While he gets to see his real family more often, it's difficult leaving the family he made in Oakland.
"[The hardest part is] leaving past relationships with teammates and coaches, as well as getting acquainted with new people, making new relationships and building new relationships," he said.
On a funny note, Weeks joked that moving to Baltimore (and this interview) may get him one step closer to meeting former Baltimore Raven Ray Lewis. Both men went to Miami—or as its alumni and Weeks referred to it, "the U."
In Weeks' first season with the Athletics, he garnered consideration for Rookie of the Year. The next year his batting average fell 80 points. Oakland sent him down to Triple-A, where he remained for much of the rest of his career in the Bay Area.
Fans wanted to know: What happened?
It was definitely more mental than physical. I feel like the physical nature, what I do, is all the same. The speed factor was there. Playing hard was there. Effort was there. The rest was just trying to fit a certain role and you have your ups and downs, and in 2013, I felt like I found myself again. [Now I'm] able to go back and do what I want to do and [I'm] just one year out from a bad season. And now this season going forward, I can progress on being myself again, so I think we can get back to some fun things.
Now he has a new team, and with it, renewed hope of playing in the big leagues soon. But how does he plan to get back there?
"It’s going back to the basics," Weeks said.
Weeks said 2011 was his "purest form of baseball" and described it as a "crash course." In 2012, it was less about just playing baseball and more about fitting into a scheme. His plan is to not worry about schemes or roles and to focus on being himself and playing his game.
Added Weeks: "I think it all made me a better player all around, regardless of what the results were."
One of those relationships Weeks will miss most is the one he had with the fans. It was clear the support he felt stuck with him:
"I just want to say that as far as the fanbase, through my ups and downs, they didn’t waver too much. There’s no real way to repay them back one by one."
Though he may play for a new team on the other side of the country, he hopes to be able to make a return to Oakland, if not just for charity works.
Moving forward, I want everybody to know as far as the fanbase in Oakland, that there’s a lot of charity in my heart that I’m trying to give out. Don’t be surprised if in the future we bring it back to the Bay Area, regardless of my situation.