Boston's Favorite Rookie Is a Navajo Hero He's a rookie who has only played a few dozen games, but Jacoby Ellsbury is already a cult hero in Boston's Fenway Park. He's fast, a timely hitter and he makes all the plays in center field. And Ellsbury is the first Native American of Navajo descent to play in the major leagues.
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Boston's Favorite Rookie Is a Navajo Hero

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Boston's Favorite Rookie Is a Navajo Hero

Boston's Favorite Rookie Is a Navajo Hero

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MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

NPR's Tom Goldman Reports.

TOM GOLDMAN: Unidentified Announcer: And tonight, the center fielder, Jacoby Ellsbury.

GOLDMAN: Twenty-one-year-old Katie Aguilar(ph) shows off the snug, number 46 Ellsbury jersey she got yesterday morning. It was one of the last ones available at a shop in Burlington, Vermont.

KATIE AGUILAR: Yeah, he only had a few left. He's like, I only have a few large kids' left. If you want one, you can have it, but I won't have anymore until Monday. And I was like, I will take it. I don't care if I have to squeeze into it. It's kids'. I'll take it.

GOLDMAN: Ellsbury has been called the best Boston prospect since all-star shortstop Nomar Garciappara. Aguilar is no scout, but she knows a good player when she sees one.

AGUILAR: I'm so amazed by his speed and just his - the way he is so calm when he's up to bat. You wouldn't think he was a rookie at all. You'd think that he'd have so much experience.

GOLDMAN: That's according to Tom Arviso Jr., who runs the Navajo Times newspaper on the reservation in Arizona.

TOM ARVISO J: The fact that he's able to be outside the reservation and be in a society where there's more opportunities to do things. I'm sure he had more opportunities to play baseball in better facilities, more frequent contact with people of other cultures. So he was comfortable.

GOLDMAN: Ellsbury's comfort level was evident last night as he calmly fieldeds questions in the cramped Fenway Park clubhouse. His life may be one of assimilation, first in Madras, now in Major League Baseball, but he says he takes his cultural heritage seriously. Ellsbury can't speak Navajo - his mom is teaching him - but he says he can understand the language. And he understands his emerging role as a Native American role model.

JACOBY ELLSBURY: You know, it's very important. You know, I didn't necessarily have too many, you know, Native American role models when I was growing up, you know, showing that it is possible. And, you know, once you got that, once you, you know, feel that you can succeed, you know, you have the tools to, I think, you know, you'll be seeing a lot more Native Americans, you know, in college and, you know, hopefully, at the professional level.

GOLDMAN: Tom Goldman, NPR News, Boston.

BLOCK: During the Jacoby Ellsbury's fourth inning at bat last night, this vaguely Native American rhythm could be heard emanating from the direction of the Red Sox bullpen.

(SOUNDBITE OF RED SOX DRUMS CORPS)

BLOCK: You can listen for the so-called Manny Delcarmen Band during game three tomorrow night in Denver. They traditionally start their performance around the fourth inning.

BLOCK: They have some new members down in the drum corps at the bullpen for the Red Sox. I wonder if Beckett's in on that.

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