He’s all in

Published 11:15 am Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Jeff Jimenez likes to use the phrase “You’re all in or you’re all out,” and in many ways he seems to embody the expression.

That type of attitude is evident when the 45-year-old Albert Lea High School alumnus is on the sideline with the teams he helps coach, it’s apparent when he speaks and it’s clear when he works with student-athletes.

There’s a passion to Jimenez, a para-professional at the Albert Lea Area Learning Center, and how he devotes his energy as an assistant coach for the boys’ basketball team and the softball program. He’s all in during practices, weight room sessions and games, and it’s one of his assets as an assistant coach.

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“I just think he’s an emotional coach,” said Albert Lea boys’ basketball head coach Lucas Kreuscher. “He gets into it. I think he brings energy, and the players feed off that.”

The type of passion he exhibits helped him up the corporate ladder at Musicland to become a buyer for the former music store chain. Jimenez doesn’t talk very often about his previous career because with it comes both the good memories and bad memories of a field he devoted himself to, but later decided he had to leave.

Jimenez worked there for 13 years and decided on which acts the store would stock on its shelves, but walked away from a lucrative career to return to his hometown of Albert Lea and start a new career.

“For me, getting into the industry was a big sacrifice,” Jimenez said.

After more than a decade in the music business where he saw acts like John Meyer, Christina Aguilera and countless others before they made it big, Jimenez got out of the business in an attempt to save himself from the throes of an alcohol addiction.

Jimenez got his start at Musicland after working several years as a social worker. A friend offered him a part-time job during the holiday season at a Musicland in Rochester and he began a quick rise through the business.

Jimenez moved up to a full-time role in the Musicland advertising department, then onto the marketing department and eventually the purchasing department.

At the height of his career, Jimenez could have gone to a concert every night for free if he wanted. Name any big band from 1991 to 2004 and Jimenez has likely seen them and met them. About three or four nights a week he was gone from his family, out at concerts. When he wasn’t at concerts, he was reading about bands or listening to one of the hundreds of albums that he received. This helped make decisions on artists to purchase for the stores. When asked if he ever made a bad pick, Jimenez said he didn’t. He didn’t miss, he said, because he researched and learned as much as he could before deciding. He was all in.

Age: 45

Address: 815 St. Thomas Ave., Albert Lea

Livelihood: para-professional, coach

Family: wife, Sandra; daughters Jalen, Riley, Quincy

Interesting fact: He continues to umpire for baseball.

“There’s a price you pay for fame and fortune,” Jimenez said.

Jimenez started to lose control of his drinking and its effects started to emerge clearly. After a conversation with his father, Jimenez knew the path he was headed needed to change.

Jimenez needed a new start and came back home to start over.

He quit drinking and spent a year and a half as “Mr. Mom” doing the household chores and raising his three daughters. He made up for time away from his family and eventually found a new niche.

“I think anybody who has dealt with alcohol addiction has to fill that void, and sports have helped fill that,” Jimenez said.

Jimenez, a three-sport athlete at Albert Lea, turned toward sports once again and was all in.

Jimenez got back into sports as an umpire for youth baseball and volunteered with the junior high football team and the ninth-grade boys’ basketball team.

“It was something that I thought I could make a difference,” Jimenez said.

With the basketball program he became the intensity guy and allowed former head coach Chad Feikema to focus on other aspects with the team. Jimenez also became instrumental in getting the players into the weight room when he led by example.

His willingness to be all in helped him forge relationships with the players, and he has become somewhat of a player’s coach because of his engaging personality.

“I’m a pretty excitable guy, but I think that’s good for a player to see,” Jimenez said. “I’ve been able to get the most out of a kid.”

He became a varsity assistant coach with Feikema and last season coached the b-squad under Kreuscher. He’s also coached the ninth-grade baseball team and will help coach football this fall.

Jimenez is plenty busy with his coaching duties, but being busy now is different than before. Instead of being hundreds of miles away from home for days at a time, he’s closer to home and often no farther away than a five-minute drive.

“I think he’s happy to be where he’s at now,” Feikema said. “Traveling less lets him be more of a family man. In some ways he feels like he’s where he needs to be.”