Family, friends support new Yankee Ellsbury
To Jacoby Ellsbury fans, it doesn't seem to matter where he plays they just want to see him playing.
That was the reaction around Madras to the news that Ellsbury, who grew up in Madras, will be playing for the New York Yankees, arch rivals of the Boston Red Sox, next season.
On Dec. 3, Ellsbury, who has played for the Red Sox since 2007, signed a seven-year deal for $153 million with the Yankees.
Two of Ellsbury's former coaches exemplified the mixed feelings of local fans of the 2002 Madras High grad; both fully support Ellsbury, but they have differing levels of enthusiasm for the new team.
"I hope he hits .350 and hits 35 homeruns and steals 85 bases, but I dont wish the Yankees any extra luck," said Larry Fivecoat Sr., former assistant Madras baseball coach.
Fivecoat served as the hitting coach during Ellsbury's high school years, and spent a great deal of time working with Ellsbury on the field and in the batting cages. "No one in the world was easier to coach than Jacoby," he said.
"I'm happy for him," said Fivecoat, who still can't believe the potential amount of the contract. "If anybody's going to get it, I'm glad he's going to get it."
Dallas Stovall, CEO of Bright Wood and one of Ellsbury's former youth baseball coaches, will wholeheartedly support both Ellsbury and his new team.
"Jacoby seldom makes a bad decision and with his support group and family I am sure this was the best move for him," said Stovall. "I'm looking forward to rooting for the Yankees again, a great tradition and winning organization, and if we are so lucky to visit the 'House the Ruth Built,' we can all say 'Were in the house where Ells walked.'"
Ellsbury's mother, Margie Ellsbury, has heard from both sides. "Most people that I know are definitely supporting Jacoby," she said. "They said they're going to have to adjust their allegiance; some said it's going to be hard."
Margie Ellsbury first learned about the signing when her son called her before the news conference. "I thought he was kidding me," she said, noting that he often teases her. "When I heard the announcement on TV, I was overcome with emotion; it confirmed what he said."
Although she's grateful to the Red Sox for seeing her son's talent and abilities, and drafting him after his junior year at Oregon State, she said, "I'm excited about the new chapter in his life. I'm happy that he's with a team that wants him long term."
Like his mother, Matt Ellsbury, of Madras, found out about his brother's contract just before it was announced. "I was really excited for him," he said. "It's a team that's always going to be in contention for the playoffs and the World Series."
He considers the Yankees the most legendary franchise in all of sports. "So many greats have played for them Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Lou Gehrig, to name just a few and he'll have the opportunity to play with future Hall of Famer Derek Jeter."
Since Jacoby is lefthanded, Matt Ellsbury expects Yankee Stadium to be a great ball park for him. "Fenway was a tough ball park to hit home runs in," he said. "I think he's really going to thrive in a short right field."
Like Fivecoat, Dan Ahern, the Jefferson County Circuit Court presiding judge, won't necessarily be rooting for the Yankees.
The Red Sox have always been my favorite team, and will always be my favorite team. But Jacoby will be my favorite player, he said.
Former Madras Pioneer sports editor Joe McHaney will also continue to be an Ellsbury fan.
"I followed Jacoby's career very closely for years while with the Pioneer and had the opportunity to speak with Jacoby many times, and I'm very excited to see him sign a contract of that magnitude," said McHaney, now the executive director of Kids Club."It's unthinkable really, to see a local prodigy ink a deal for that kind of money."
Boston fans challenged by change
On the other side of the country, fans are taking the switch a little harder.
Debbie and Steve Brocklebank, of Falmouth, Mass., who consider themselves diehard Red Sox fans, hosted Ellsbury in 2004, when he played for the Falmouth Commodores in the Cape Cod League during his college years.
Over the past decade, they have remained very close to Jacoby and his family, and enthusiastically followed the Red Sox.
"As a Red Sox fan, you don't like to see anyone go to the Yankees," said Debbie Brocklebank. "But Jacoby, as one of 'our boys,' we're always going to cheer for Jacoby. The person comes before the teams."
Ellsbury was the first of 16 college players four of whom have gone to the Majors that the Brocklebanks have hosted.
"Even though he'll be wearing pinstripes, he's still 'our boy,'" she said. "We're thrilled for him and everything this means for him for the next seven years. He's such a great kid."
However, since the contract was announced, she said, "We've been inundated with friends and family offering their condolences."
"I never thought I'd be going to Yankee Stadium," continued Brocklebank. "It's been huge news the 'breaking news.' It really is the buzz right now."
She's pleased that she and her husband will still be able to follow Ellsbury's career. "It's just a three and one-half hour train ride away," she said.
For Margie Ellsbury, there's no question about team loyalty. "Wherever he goes, we go," she said. "My sister says she's team Jacoby."
Ellsbury, the boy who declared his intention of becoming a Major League ballplayer in elementary school, has realized his goal in a big way.
"Yes, I'm proud of my son," she said.