Jacoby McCabe Ellsburywas born September 11, 1983 in Madras, Oregon. His father, Jim, worked a forester for the Bureau of Indian Affairs. His mother, Margie, was an early-intervention specialist on the Warm Springs Reservation near Madras. Margie, a full-blooded Navajo, descended from a famous 19th century tribal leader, Granado Mucho. She was raisedon the Colorado River Reservation on the Arizona-California border—home to the Mohave, Chemehuevi, Hopi, and Navajo tribes—and was educated at a Mormonschool in Utah.
Jacoby and his three younger brothers grew up in Madras, which is located on the east side of Mt. Hood. All the Ellsbury boys were talented multisport athletes. They played football, basketball and soccer.
Jacoby was always the fastest runner and best jumper of the three. Once the brothers cornered a young deer in the woods near their home. Jacoby was 11 at the time and was able to run it down and loop a rope aroundits neck.
High jumping and d eer-roping notwithstanding, Jacoby’s favorite sport was baseball. Heplayed Little League ball in Arizona, where he visited his grandmother during the summers. She taught her grandsons traditional Navajo songs while they stayed with her.
The player who Jacoby idolized was Ken Griffey Jr., the star outfielder for the Seattle Mariners. Jacoby saw Griffey play in the Kingdome several times as a boy. Juniors power, speed and all-around natural ability were mesmerizing.
Jacoby was still a relatively well-kept secret when he enrolled at Madras High School in 1998. The first to notice himwas John Reynolds, a guidance counselor who helped out with the football team. He had coached three players who went on to the NFL, so he knew talent when he saw it. When Reynoldswatched Jacoby zero in on ball carriers on the gridiron, he could hardly believe the boy’s explosive speed.Jacoby also played basketball at Madras. He was a 6–1 forwardwho often jumped center for the team—and usually won the tip, even against boys seven or eight inches taller. Jacoby’s mom recalls that her son “electrified people.”
The mixture of NativeAmericans, Hispanics and Caucasiansat Madras Hish was more or less even. Jacoby was a popular kid who got along with just about everyone. It didn’t hurt that he was the star of the baseball team. Jacoby never ceased to amaze coach Bruce Reese, who let Oregon State baseball coach Pat Casey know that he had a kid who was the real deal. The White Buffaloes were tough to beat when Jacoby was on the field.
There was nothing Jacoby couldn’t do on the diamond. More to the point, he did things that high schoolplayers weren't supposed to do. Most notably, he was a flawless baserunner. Reese claims that in four years Jacoby wasnever thrown out on the basepaths. The coach also has a hard time recalling an instance when Jacoby bothered to stop at third base. His speed and acceleration were completely intimidating.
One of Jacoby’s friends in those early years was Jed Lowrie. They played on the same travel teams and later faced each other in college. Both were drafted by the Red Sox a few years later.
ON THE RISE
In the spring of 2002, Jacoby was offered a full ride to several West Coast schools, including nearby Oregon State. That June, he was also drafted in the 23rd round by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. After weighing his options, he decided to take thescholarship. He would play three years at Oregon State for coach Casey.
Jacoby batted .330 with seven home runsin his first season and earned Freshman All-America honors. That year, Casey told a friend scouting in the area that his star center fielder was thefirst “bona fide, drop-dead, first-round draft pick” of his coaching career.
After Jacoby’s sophomore year, Casey told the same scout that he had changed his mind. The kid would be a All-Star.That season, Jcoby batted .352 and made First-Team All-PAC 10.Pro scouts were starting to come around to Casey’s way of thinking. In thesummer of 2004, Jacoby competed in the Cape Cod League and distinguished himself as a serious blue-chipper. He was named the #17 prospect in the league by Baseball America