Janzen’s Journey Comes To Long Island

Marty Janzen
Since Kevin Baez took over as manager of the Ducks in 2011, there has been a consistency among the team’s coaching staff. Baez has served as the skipper for each of the past four seasons, Bud Harrelson has handled the bench coach duties and Steve Foucault was in charge of the pitching staff. The only changes came after 2012 when hitting coach Jay Loviglio left the staff and prior to 2014 when Lew Ford became the hitting coach. In that four-year span, the Ducks won three Liberty Division championships and two Atlantic League titles, missing the postseason just once.

However, the news of Foucault electing to retire after this past season vacated a position that had been handled with a steadiness over the previous four seasons. Many wondered who would fill his cleats throughout the offseason. On Wednesday, that question was answered when the Ducks announced their coaching staff for 2015. While Baez, Harrelson and Ford would all return in their same roles, veteran pitcher and pitching coach Marty Janzen would be taking over the role of pitching coach.

“It’s an honor to be part of a first class organization,” said Janzen via telephone. “The way everyone has handled themselves on the field, both the coaching staff and players, everybody is first class. I think that stems from the top as far as finding people who are ‘character’ guys.”

Believe it or not, a career in professional baseball and hopes of reaching the Major Leagues seemed like a pipe dream to Janzen following high school. The right-hander had enjoyed playing baseball at Gainesville High School (Fla.), but when his time there was done, it did not seem that baseball would be at the forefront of his future plans.

“I pretty much was giving up on baseball after high school,” he recalled. “Someone convinced me to play legion ball, so I tried it out for a couple of months. Things started getting better for me, and fortunately we were at a legion tournament and I got seen by a scout. They did a tryout for me, I signed and I tried to be the first guy to the field and the last guy to leave from that point on. I tried to outwork everyone, and for me, it worked out.”

After getting that opportunity from the New York Yankees in 1991, Janzen spent parts of four seasons in the organization, reaching as high as Double-A. His ERA was below 4.00 in each of his first three seasons, and he posted outstanding numbers at Single-A Tampa in 1995. However, with the big league club putting together a strong start to their season, they decided to pull the trigger on a trade that would bolster their starting rotation. The Yankees traded Janzen, along with Jason Jarvis and Mike Gordon to the Toronto Blue Jays for a pitcher by the name of David Cone. New York’s newest acquisition would go on to help the Yankees to the playoffs in each of the next six seasons and earned four World Series rings.

“At the time, it was kind of bittersweet for me,” Janzen said. “Being with the Yankees and being somewhat close to the big leagues, I always wanted to play in the big leagues for them. It was an honor to get traded for a guy like that and it did help my career, but in the same breath, it was bittersweet because the Yankees were the team I always watched. I wore a Yankees hat by the time I was 12 years old to school the majority of the time, and ironically it had worked out for me.”

While Cone’s career flourished, Janzen too was benefitted by the trade. After going 5-1 with a 2.63 ERA in seven starts with Double-A Knoxville after the trade, he found himself at the Major League level with the Blue Jays in 1996. Although he struggled in the big leagues his first year, he was moved to the bullpen in 1997 and pitched well, going 2-1 with a 3.60 ERA and 17 strikeouts in 12 relief appearances. Although ’97 was his last appearance in “The Show,” Janzen was chosen in the expansion draft by the Arizona Diamondbacks after the season and then returned back to his original home, the Yankees, prior to 1998. In the trade that sent him back to New York, he was joined by Todd Erdos, who would go on to serve as the Ducks closer seven years later.

Janzen’s career would eventually take him to the Atlantic League in 2000 when he joined the Nashua Pride. He would pitch for the Pride that season, in 2001 and in 2004 before winding up with the Camden Riversharks at the end of ’04. He pitched well, compiling a 2.35 ERA in nine games (one start), but his championship dreams with Camden came to a halt when they ran into a foe from the North Division. That team? The Long Island Ducks.

“I honestly felt the Ducks had the better team than we did at that point,” Janzen stated. “We got to the playoffs because we were a hot team, but they were a better team, hands down.”

The righty would spend one more season on the mound before deciding to hang up his cleats following 2005. He eventually found himself in the Atlantic League once again, this time as a pitching coach. Janzen served in that role with the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs in 2010, working under manager Butch Hobson, who also served as his skipper with the Pride. He would move with Hobson to the Lancaster Barnstormers in 2011, and both would serve on the coaching staff for the next three seasons. In the middle of those three, Janzen found himself in the Championship Series against the Ducks once again. Just like in 2004, Long Island would emerge victorious despite an outstanding regular season by Lancaster. When Dan Lyons’ bunt proved to be the series-ending hit, Janzen was left in a state of shock.

“The end of the 2012 season was pretty tough,” he reminisced. “Between the team unity and everything that took place, we had a good team all year long. Doing what Lyons did to lay the bunt down, you tip your hat. It was an ingenious play. You were just in shock and disbelief because it happened so quickly. You had two good teams going against each other, and one’s got to lose. I tip my hat to them. They had a great team. There’s no bitterness, though. You just had to move forward.”

After spending this past season working in Taiwan and handling their major and minor league system, Janzen heard about a couple of potential opportunities back in the Atlantic League. Foucault’s retirement and Chris Widger’s promotion to manager in Camden opened up two positions as a pitching coach. He immediately expressed interest in the vacancies, and he now finds himself guiding the pitching staff of the same team that has twice defeated his team for the title.

“I reached out to [Ducks founder and CEO] Frank [Boulton], sent my resume and told him a little bit about myself,” Janzen recalled. “I’ve seen him from across the way over the years but never really had a chance to speak to him. [President and General Manager] Michael [Pfaff] then reached out to me, I went through the interview process and then they announced to me that I had gotten the job.”

As mentioned earlier, Foucault provided a steady calm as the pitching coach for the Ducks. Originally from Minnesota and now residing in Florida, he brought a laid back approach to the game and offered his experience and knowledge as guiding points, rather than trying to craft each pitcher. In his own words, Janzen brings a very similar mindset to his role as pitching coach.

“He was actually my pitching coach when I was in Camden,” Janzen noted. “He’s a great guy and extremely knowledgeable. I’m not there to instill my way and say that’s the way it has to be. You let these guys do what they do, and if they need anything from you, in terms of what they may do wrong mechanically or if there’s anything they see, you take the opportunity to mention it to them. “

While in the new role, he will be working on a staff with a man he’s very familiar with. Janzen and Baez have played against each other in the Championship Series and were part of opposing coaching staffs in the Championship Series. Now, they’ll join forces for the first time, and both have a tremendous amount of respect for the other.

“There is definitely a mutual respect,” said Janzen. “He’s a great player’s manager and knows the game. He’s obviously got an idea of what he’s doing bringing two championships to Long Island out of four years. You don’t win those championships if you don’t have team unity and guys in the clubhouse who are ‘character’ guys. It says a lot about your skipper.”

With the Ducks looking to rebound following a season that left them outside of the playoff picture, everyone’s focus appears to be on a championship. From players to coaches to front office staff, the organization as a whole is eager to taste the sweetness of victory champagne over the bitterness of defeat when the 2015 season ends. For Janzen, there is no question that winning a championship is at the forefront of his desires for this year. This time though, he won’t need to go up against those pesky Ducks. He’ll help lead them.

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Posted on February 13, 2015, in Ducks News and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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