He wasn't looking to make a shift. He was content to be in a situation that was almost impossible for modern sports: stability. He'd been in the sport for 17 years, almost half of his life. organization. Twelve of those twelve years were in the majors. He was the franchise's most successful saves leader. He lived in a lovely house by the Pacific Ocean with his wife and four children. Jeanie Buss, Los Angeles Lakers owner, was his regular seat. He loved the 3-story playhouse he built in the backyard.
Jansen explained, “When I ask about the Dodgers it was family to me.” “That was all that I knew. That's all I knew my entire life in baseball. They were so helpful in every aspect of my life. They signed this child, and this boy became a man. He was a man, a husband, and a father to four children.
His plan for this offseason was to sign with the Dodgers once the lockout was over.
Jansen stated, “That was Option A.”
It was also the Dodgers plan.
Andrew Friedman, Dodgers president and CEO of baseball operations, said that “We have tremendous respect for Kenley both the person and Kenley as a competitor.” “It was a priority to us going into the off-season in order to retain him.”
According to all accounts, the Dodgers tried to keep him around, and he did return.
It just didn’t happen. He was looking for a three-year contract; the Dodgers prefer one or two. Both sides continued to talk, but the math got more complicated.They were so close to the luxury taxes that they would have to trade salary to give Jansen the deal he wanted. Jansen began to worry about losing offers from other teams as he waited for the Dodgers.
The defending World Series champion was nextHe was a huge fan of the Curacao team, and he has a wealth family. That was why you needed an immediate answer.
Jansen felt the pressure build up and began to think about Option B. He took a deep breath like he had done it thousands of times before, and consulted his wife Gianni to make the decision..
Jansen stated that it was very difficult to leave. “Very emotional. Sometimes, opportunities come up in your life and you need to seize them. Otherwise you will always wonder what could have happened. You don't always get those opportunities back.
When he announced his departure to his coaches and teammates, there was sadness. He was so emotional that he cried while talking to his teammates.And . He's certain he'll feel emotional when he returns to Dodger Stadium Monday with the Braves in LA for a three-game series.
The Braves were the only team that he felt comfortable leaving the Dodgers for.
Jansen stated, “I can remember growing up in Curacao at five years old and watching the Twins play in the World Series in 1992.” “Fred McGriff, Andruw Justice, David Justice, Sid Bream were all big fans of mine. I could keep going on with names. TBS Superstation was our station!
“I don't want this to be taken for granted. “Every day I'm here in this uniform, I enjoy it. And when the time comes again, I hope we win another championship here this year.”
Jansen felt an excitement as he faced a new challenge in a different place for the first time since almost 20 years.
“It's kind of like going back to your childhood when you first got to big leagues,” he stated.
At this point, it's worthwhile to look back at Jansen’s early days in big leagues. He was 21 years old, and it was 2010. He'd entered the world less than a year before.To see if he had enough talent to allow the Dodgers' minor-league coaches to teach him how to pitch, he was placed in the bullpen at Class A San Bernardino. After five seasons, most evaluators concluded that he was a light-hitting catcher. There was something special about his throwing technique when someone attempted to steal the ball.
Hough in 2010 stated that “He'd drop down to his left and throw it to the second harder than our pitcher.”
The original plan did not work out. But the Dodgers presented an alternative. They would teach him how to pitch and then let him stay. The Dodgers would allow him to grow if he was willing to accept change.
Jansen admitted, “That was also tough for me.” “I didn’t want to be an pitcher. I was a catcher. Then, there was the great opportunity that presented itself, and you have to embrace it.”
This change has been a success for all involved. It's led to more than 350 saves, two Trevor Hoffman Awards as top relievers in baseball, three All Star appearances, and one World Series title.
Jansen stated that “for so long”, Jansen described, “it was almost like when I'm playing the game, that's it.” “Turn the lights on, we can go to home. Get your cleats out, everyone put their glove down. You don’t have to do any of this.
However, a string of heart problems and a decade of playing in close games in big leagues took their toll. Jansen was a more skilled thrower when he started his career. His right arm could reach 98 miles per hour and his delivery was effortless. His fastball cut was one of most dangerous pitches in major league baseball.
In 2018, he was still an elite close, but he had a harder time getting outs. He could not just blow hitters out of the water anymore. Instead of relying solely on the cutter, he had to give them a variety of pitches.
Friedman stated that Friedman was amazed at Friedman's “his growth as a pitcher” and said, “His transformation was really impressive to see firsthand.” “He was so dominant after his conversion from pitching. Then, as he grew older he had to really pull himself together to continue to improve his pitches and become a better pitcher. It was really interesting to observe his growth and it speaks volumes of who he is as a competitor as well.
Jansen also experienced an almost simultaneous depression.. In October 2012, he had surgery to correct atrial fibrillation. He had to undergo a six-hour surgery in 2018 when the issue returned. It was a long and difficult recovery. Jansen was unable to lift weights or train as he used to for months. He had to also drastically alter his diet. Although this was good for his overall well-being, it caused him to have a difficult year in 2019.
Jansen still had 33 saves, but his ERA that year was a career-high 3.71.
“I was out!” [in spring training]He said, “It threw 88-89.” “It messed my mind.”
He knew he would get his velocity back if he could spend off-season training like he used to, but he also knew that he needed to change his approach to pitching, both on and off the mound. To help him process what he had experienced in the past season, he began working with a psychologist. He felt a loss of invincibility and strength, as well as a decrease in his velocity. He had never been able to handle the pressure of closing large games. However, he hadn't had to close without his best stuff.
His wife suggested that he learn another skill to keep his mind from focusing on baseball occasionally. He decided to learn piano at the Torrance Arts Academy.
It was initially for entertainment and escape. It soon became much more.
Jansen stated, “It has helped me tremendously.” “It helped to focus my mind because you can't distract yourself when you work with music.”
He bought a Steinway to practice at home. He also recorded his sessions to review them later, much like he does with his pitcher. He decided to take up bass guitar the next year while he was at home with the pandemic.
He stated, “It helps my mind a lot to focus better.” Thoughts can be quite tricky. They can be very difficult to defeat. You can't think about them when you're playing music. Your mind is so focused on the task at hand, ‘Right Here, Right Now.' That keeps me in the moment of, “Right here, right now.”
“So, when I go for a run outside I'm going be, ‘Right now, right here. How can I make my running more efficient? What can I do to be more consistent? It's the ninth inning, or any other inning that you ask me to pitch. It doesn't matter what it is.
He has been repeating this mantra to himself often over the last few days. Jansen's debut in Atlanta was rocky. He gave up three runs in that ninth. However, the Braves won 7-6. Jansen has since pitched three scoreless innings, with two saves against Padres. It's a pattern he is repeating this week as he knows his return at Dodger Stadium will be.
He is likely to feel it, and he will allow it.
If the Braves lead the Braves into the ninth, he will run out of the visiting bullpen to the mound. It'll be almost exactly the same. It will feel completely different in others. After twelve years of hearing California Love, no song will play while he jogs up the hill.
Jansen has seen enough change in his professional career to know that it is best to stay present and as openly as possible in these moments. It's not to dwell on what could've, should've, or should have been. Instead, Jansen must accept the present and embrace the unknown to see where it takes him. This change may have been meant to be.
He said, “Let's just see how it feels.” “I am just going to try and focus on being right here, Right now.”