In Praise of Jacoby Ellsbury
Me: "I believe I've found the next Mr. Nic."
Him: "Uh-huh." (The fact his gaze didn't leave the screen was an additional clue that he wasn't taking me seriously.)
Me: "Any guesses?"
Him, after a pause: "Is your book finished yet? Isn't it due at the end of the month? That's not far off."
Yeah, I let that go. But a few plays later, in the fifth inning, rookie Jacoby Ellsbury made a fantastic catch, racing to the left field line, tripping over the bullpen mound and taking out a folding chair in order to catch a Greg Norton foul ball.
Me: "That's the guy."
Him: "You go for it, Nic." (Again, he just doesn't take me seriously. Smart man.)
What gets me with Ellsbury isn't simply that he's making plays so spectacular they end up on SportsCenter. It's not that he's good-looking (though he is), or even that he's both articulate and interesting when he's interviewed.
What I appreciate about watching him play is that he exhibits a true passion for baseball. He's an in-the-moment player, approaching each game as if it's his one night in the majors. He's completely focused when he's at the plate; when he's in the field, his eye never leaves the ball. Determined athletes like Ellsbury reinvigorate the players around them. They get their teams into the playoffs. They make kids believe that with a lot of hard work, they too can do something great.
I hope he stays in the majors a long time.