TAOYUAN, TAIWAN – It’s a well-known fact by now that there are no major leaguers in this Premier 12.
But it’s less known that some of the players aren’t even professional ballplayers at all.
Mexico’s Mark Serrano is one of them.
The 30-year-old right-hander is a former minor league pitcher who currently works for a real estate company in Long Beach, California.
Just a couple of weeks before the Premier 12 began, his office phone rang. It was the Mexican national team.
“They called me out when I was working at my desk in a suit and tie,” said Serrano, who pitched for 4⅔ innings as a middle reliever in a 9-6 win over the Dominican Republic at Taoyuan International Stadium on Sunday.
“They said, ‘Come play for us.’ “
Serrano, who was 6 when his father emigrated from Mexico to the United States, hadn’t picked up a baseball since he played in the winter league in January, but tried to get ready as fast as he could.
Serrano was a little rusty joining the team, but his mind-set was fresh.
“My body was still kind of beat up from playing since I was 6, and I played professionally 6½ years before I retired,” said Serrano, who had two stints at the Reno Aces of the Pacific Coast League.
“My body is still not there. But my mind is.”
Serrano added that his young teammates on the Mexican team gave him a lot of energy and allowed him to get back into the swing of things quicker.
In return, Serrano has passed on his experience and knowledge of the game. He said that he has tried to lead the team by example during the inaugural Premier 12.
“I know I had to show these young guys that it’s not about talent, how hard you throw, or how hard you hit the ball, especially if you are a young guy,” said Serrano, who was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in the 2009 MLB June Amateur Draft. “To put our team together in a week (before tournament), you’ve got to play with a lot of heart. Who wants it more? That’s what this game of baseball is about.”
Serrano gave up six hits and a homer but managed to pitch patiently to earn the win against the Dominican Republic. He said that he wasn’t rattled even when the bases were loaded, perhaps thanks to his past experiences.
“I’ve been playing professionally since 2009, so just go out there (and) do my job,” said Serrano, who posted a 7-1 record with a 4.03 ERA in three seasons in Triple A. “When I gave up the hits, it didn’t faze me.
“Hitting’s hard, very, very hard to hit. So if I can make some quality pitches, and make them swing at bad pitches, I can put our team in a good position to win.”
Serrano said there are also a few others on the team who had not been playing before the championship began.
“We have Romo,” Serrano said. “He hasn’t been able to pitch yet. (San Francisco Giants reliever) Sergio Romo’s little brother, Andrew Romo. He’s a pitcher. He is actually a sheriff now. Me and him and two other guys are retired. I don’t know how long (Romo)’s been retired. But I would say probably longer than me.
“That’s what I’m saying. We come out here, we hung tough against Japan (lost 6-5), hung tough against Korea (lost 4-3). We are just a bunch of scrappers. We got to play with a lot of heart. You have to be smart, too, because we have a lot of young guys. And if us as older guys show them how to play the game, you don’t need to have all the talent in the world. Gotta be smart and play with a lot of passion.”
For Serrano, the opportunity to be part of the Mexican national team for the Premier 12 has been “a blast.”
“This has been amazing,” he said. “I’m so glad they called me. I’m glad my work let me take a couple weeks off, too. So that was good.”
Finally, when asked if he’d want to return to being a player, potentially abroad, Serrano replied: “Maybe.”
“I don’t want to say no, I don’t want to say yes,” He said. “If I still feel good . . . Maybe Japan this time. Maybe Puerto Rico. It would be fun. Baseball is a kids’ game. Maybe I get to have fun again instead of being behind the desk.”
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