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Old 10-09-2007, 10:08 AM   #1
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Navajo baseball player makes his mark in Boston

Turning heads
By Patrick Ronan The Daily Times
Farmington Daily Times
Article Launched:10/08/2007 12:00:00 AM MDT

BOSTON — A young ballplayer takes his warm-up cuts in the on-deck circle. Sporting a gleaming white jersey with a red No. 46 stitched onto the back, the fresh-faced rookie makes his way to the plate.
As he calmly approaches the batter's box, a strong, but comforting voice is heard over the park's PA system: "Now batting ... center fielder ... Jacoby Ellsbury."

Before Ellsbury steps into the box, he sneaks a quick glance toward the crowd. He sees thousands of red and blue jerseys. The fans are absolutely electric.

There's a chill in the air. And it's not caused by the fall breeze rolling through Fenway Park. The chill has little to do with the weather, but more so the time of year.

It's late September and the Boston Red Sox are on the verge of clinching their first division title in 12 years.

Bill Clinton was in his first term as president the last time the Sox celebrated a division crown, and The Internet had yet to invade the mainstream.

As for Ellsbury, the first Navajo to play in the majors, he was in Little League when the Sox last topped the AL East.

Less than a month after turning 24, he comes to bat while in the midst of a very important pennant race.

Some players wait their whole careers to experience the championship push. Some never do.

But this is Jacoby Ellsbury. There's something special about the kid wearing No. 46.

"There is something. I wish I could put my finger on it, but you can't really," said Peter Gammons, the longtime baseball beat writer/historian. Gammons is ESPN's go-to guy for baseball analysis and is considered one of the country's most credible sports writers.

"(Jacoby) is just one of the guys who walks in here, and not only looks like a major leaguer — which is really important — but older players look at him and see a peer, and that is very unusual. I don't know whether it's the upbringing, but he's always been a little bit different than other guys, tremendous maturity."

Traditionally, young prospects are tended like babies. A player is drafted, shipped to the minors and gradually climbs through the system — rookie league, Single-A, Double-A, Triple-A. Then if he's one of the lucky few, the prospect gets a shot with the big club.


Meant to be in the bigs

Some players waste away in the minors for a majority of their career. They'll stick it out, hoping and praying that someday their number gets called.

For most, that day never comes. For the multifaceted Ellsbury, the team with baseball's best record sucked him in like a magnet. No matter how much they tried to groom Ellsbury in the minors, the Red Sox couldn't fight the obvious: The youngster was meant to be in the big leagues.

Just ask Sox team captain Jason Varitek.

"Jacoby has done a great job stepping in," the catcher said. "He's got a lot of different weapons he can use — he's got his speed, he's got a good swing and good hand-eye coordination bat to ball. He can reach a lot of pitches. He's been a very good, welcomed addition."

And almost like magnets, opposites attracted. Ellsbury is the rare Sox player who's hogged the highlights with more than a big stick. For the last century, Boston traditionally has been a breeding ground for sluggers. Ted Williams, perhaps the game's greatest hitter, is the cornerstone of the franchise. A wily war veteran who liked to fish, eat steak and hit home runs, the "Splendid Splinter" set the tone for what the franchise was built around: the power hitter.

Carl Yaztremski, Jim Rice, Mo Vaughn, Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz.

They've all reached legendary status for their home run trots.

Ellsbury isn't like those guys. He's not a cleanup hitter. But he just may be the fastest guy the Red Sox have had in their clubhouse.

In 33 games, Ellsbury has thrilled fans and invaded ESPN's Sportscenter with his unprecedented speed on the basepaths and with his remarkable catches in the outfield.

Despite early comparisons to former Red Sox and current Yankees All-Star Johnny Damon, Gammons has higher expectations for Ellsbury.

"He's more like (Grady) Sizemore," Gammons said. "I think (Jacoby) will be a better defender than Damon. Johnny was a very good player, but Sizemore is one the best players in the game. I think Jacoby is going to hit for power."

So far, Ellsbury has smacked three home runs in the majors, after hitting just two in 104 games in the minors. According to Gammons, who has followed Ellsbury's career since his stint in the Cape Cod League, his work ethic is second to none. Ellsbury constantly is striving to improve his game.

"When he played in Falmouth (Mass.), he played left field because he couldn't throw." Gammons said. "Jacoby went back to Oregon State, went to the pitching coach, got on a throwing program, and now he's got an average to above-average major league arm.


A respect for the game

"A lot of young players come up and they're cocky and they think they're really good," Gammons continued. "Ellsbury (and fellow rookie Dustin Pedroia) are so respectful of the game that they work on what they can't do, and that is why I think they're both going to be great players."

Although still in his Major League infancy, Ellsbury is expected to stay hot even as the October air cools.

"He's a young guy coming up with a lot of skills," Boston shortstop Julio Lugo said. "He has great energy, good instincts up there. He's going to be great."

Many men Ellsbury's age are still trying to figure out their career aspirations. Some are living the college hangover, partying hard on the weekends and stumbling into work on Monday, living life like there's no tomorrow.

But Ellsbury and the Red Sox are living for tomorrow, in that "tomorrow" brings a World Series banner.

Many wonder, "how can a 24-year-old handle the pressure of a Red Sox playoff race?"

"You just got to take it slow. I think the biggest thing is first trusting your abilities on the field," Ellsbury said. "Once you get comfortable on the field, then you can start getting comfortable with the media, the city and your surrounding areas. It's definitely been an adjustment for me."

It's playoff time in Red Sox Nation. It's what dreams are made of, and in some cases, where nightmares are born, such as Bill Buckner's infamous error on a ground ball in the 1986 World Series that helped the New York Mets force a Game 7 and steal the Series from Boston.

But in a city of broken curses and inflated egos, the Red Sox faithful are confident Ellsbury can weather the storm.

"As the playoffs evolve, I think he'll play more and more," Gammons said. "My guess is he rises to the occasion and plays really well. He clearly is fearless. He's not afraid of failure. That is two-thirds of the battle other than talent when you come to the big leagues for the first time."

A fearless, multifaceted player with a good attitude? Sounds like the dream prospect for any Major League club.

The Red Sox were lucky enough to snatch this rising star. And perhaps at just the right time.


Patrick Ronan: [email protected]
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Old 10-10-2007, 01:12 AM   #2
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Maybe now Indian people will quit wearing Yankees caps at the powwows even though they've prob never even been to NY...oh yeah and YANKEES SUCK! Sorry can't help myself...GO SOX!
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Old 10-19-2007, 03:47 PM   #3
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EAP7, I highly doubt that...*L*....he's navajo....not too many other natives are too keen on a navajo doing something else....they might say he is disrespecting their (Red Sox) ways.....granted, there are a bunch of morons out there who do this, not all do.......anyway, off my box, and on to work.......
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Old 10-19-2007, 04:33 PM   #4
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All I know is that he is an enrolled member of the Colorado River Indian Tribes which include four distinct Tribes - the Mohave, Chemehuevi, Hopi and Navajo.
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Old 10-19-2007, 04:36 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by eap7 View Post
Maybe now Indian people will quit wearing Yankees caps at the powwows even though they've prob never even been to NY...oh yeah and YANKEES SUCK! Sorry can't help myself...GO SOX!
I've been to NYC but I don't wear a Yankees cap. And I unlike you, LOVE the Yankees.... I saw them win the series a couple of times and went to their ticker tape parades in NYC and it was a blast!

I like Jocoby Ellsbury... not necessarily for who he plays for, but because his Mom is a friend of mine and I've seen this young man grow up. We're all very proud of him over here.

Last edited by Kakeeya; 10-19-2007 at 04:54 PM.. Reason: forgot something
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Old 10-23-2007, 11:45 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kakeeya View Post
I've been to NYC but I don't wear a Yankees cap. And I unlike you, LOVE the Yankees.... I saw them win the series a couple of times and went to their ticker tape parades in NYC and it was a blast!

I like Jocoby Ellsbury... not necessarily for who he plays for, but because his Mom is a friend of mine and I've seen this young man grow up. We're all very proud of him over here.
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Old 10-23-2007, 05:19 PM   #7
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I concure. He grew up in Madras, Oregon, so he can't be half bad. Sure is a goot looking young man too. I think my teenage daughter might become a fan of baseball because of him.
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Old 10-23-2007, 06:14 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by eap7 View Post
Maybe now Indian people will quit wearing Yankees caps at the powwows even though they've prob never even been to NY...oh yeah and YANKEES SUCK! Sorry can't help myself...GO SOX!
Answer for me.....if you can.....The number of World Series Crowns the Sox posess? Now how many do the Yanks posess....nuff said there....Yeah, yeah the Sox are in the Series this year....But to make it even worse and not even looking at it from a Yankee point of view.....What happenned in 1986? Furthermore.....What do Micahel Jackson and Bill Buckner have in common?

They both wear a right handed glove apparantly for no reason.....Theres more where that came from....
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Old 10-23-2007, 08:27 PM   #9
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Not to mention that I saw somewhere that Joba Chamberlain, yankee 100 MPH plus reliever, is a member of the (it said this tribal name in the article) Winnebago nation. So if that's true, there's a reason to like the Yankees
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Old 10-23-2007, 11:04 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Kakeeya View Post
I've been to NYC but I don't wear a Yankees cap. And I unlike you, LOVE the Yankees.... I saw them win the series a couple of times and went to their ticker tape parades in NYC and it was a blast!

I like Jocoby Ellsbury... not necessarily for who he plays for, but because his Mom is a friend of mine and I've seen this young man grow up. We're all very proud of him over here.
I'm proud of you for being proud of him. Ayyee
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Old 03-17-2011, 02:31 PM   #11
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Sports radio announcers in NYC were saying that Jacoby isn't well-liked in the locker room as of last Fall and the Bosox were trying to trade him. Anyone know if this is true?

I hope he keeps playing in the major leagues.
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