Navajo Runner

December 20, 2009
By Connor Reed BRONZE, Wallingford, Connecticut
Connor Reed BRONZE, Wallingford, Connecticut
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

Jacoby Ellsbury and his brothers were sitting on the porch of their Madras, Oregon home. The former was only eight but was already learning about the family’s Navajo Indian heritage from his mother, Margie. She had just familiarized Jacoby with a Native American folklore passed down from her father. “If you catch a dragonfly and rub its little legs against your bare feet - without hurting the insect - you'll gain the ability to run faster” was what Margie told her eldest son. Jacoby tried just that. The results, as any Red Sox fan will testify, are quite clear.

That Navajo child described above is now playing professional baseball for the Boston Red Sox. When he first came up from the minors, at age 23, Ellsbury was one of the team’s most valuable prospects. The lefty took a spot in record books as soon as he took the field, becoming the first Navajo to do so in baseball’s history, dating back to the 19th century. It didn’t take long for the centerfielder to show Red Sox fans that utilizing speed and smarts was just as dangerous as combining brute and brawn. Ellsbury began his career by stringing together twenty-five straight steals without getting caught. However, on the 26th attempt, Milwaukee breifly interrupted the speedster’s reign of terror on the base paths by throwing him out, leaving Ellsbury two steals short of Tim Raines record. At the season’s end, the rookie finished with 50 stolen bases, setting the pace for American Leaguers.

Ellsbury had taken speed, a missing element in Boston’s game since Tommy Harper’s three year span with the city in the mid 1970’s, and reintroudced the playing style to Fenway Fauthfuls. Such was demonstrated when Jacoby stole home on April 27th, 2009 in front of a sold-out stadium housing 38,154 fans. Pitcher Andy Pettite was warned by his catcher, Jorge Posada, that Ellsbury might try something gutsy. As the speedster was barreling down the third base line, Posada received Pettite’s frantic pitch and laid down a futile tag on Ellsbury, who, despite stumbling on his way there, was safe, compeling nearly every attending fan to rise from his seat. That swipe was one of Ellsbury’s league leading seventy in 2009.

Currently, 129 bases have fallen victim to Jacoby Ellsbury’s speed over the past two and a half years, only 39 short of franchise leader Carl Yastrzemski, who managed 168 swipes in twenty-three seasons. That Navajo child who once sat rubbing dragonflies on his feet is now the most feared baserunner in the game.

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