|Jimerson's bid to make Mariners only the latest challenge in his life|
|Written by Admin|
|Friday, 21 March 2008 23:39|
Jimerson has been ignoring stop signs his entire life.
``It's something I've proven to be able to do - at all levels, ``the 28-year-old said of his attempt to make his first major league team out of spring training, 12 months after he was unemployed and calling teams using a directory from a magazine.
His mother abandoned him for crack cocaine. His father left before that. His sister, Lanette, got a court order to raise him and his brother in and around Oakland, Calif., when she was 19.
Jimerson applied to the University of Miami on academic merit after he saw a ``commercial, a real good commercial'' about the school, its beach and its sun.
He walked on to the Hurricanes soon-to-be champion baseball team - even though the coach had never heard of him. Without a scholarship, he got together loans and grants to earn a degree in computer science.
``I'm still paying off my student loans,'' he said.
En route to the degree, Jimerson replaced his roommate, an injured star outfielder - and became MVP of the College World Series.
The Houston Astros drafted Jimerson in the fifth round in 2001. When they waived him last March, he called the personnel directors and minor league coordinators from every major league team.
Nearly a full month passed before his phone rang.
``Seattle actually called me,'' he said, still sounding amazed.
The Mariners answered because Jimerson had played in 18 major league games in 2005 and '06.
They were unaware of his ambition, and the tough times he has had to overcome.
They knew nothing of his quick first step.
Not the one off first base - and not the one that has kept Jimerson ahead of a life that easily could have dragged him down.
``We just needed a player at Double A,'' Mariners director of player development Greg Hunter said.
After hitting 25 home runs and stealing 35 bases at Double-A West Tennessee and Triple-A Tacoma last season to earn a September call-up, Jimerson is a week from joining a potential playoff contender in the AL West.
Jimerson is competing with Mike Morse, Wladimir Balentien and former starter Jeremy Reed for the backup outfielder job.
He hasn't been the spring hitting star Morse has been, but his possibility as a base-stealing specialist is something Seattle has rarely had. He leads the team with four stolen bases this spring.
Jimerson is 4-for-4 on steals in two stints in the big leagues - 11 games with the Mariners last season and 17 games for Houston. He stole 30 bases in 39 tries at West Tennessee last season, then was 5-for-6 at Tacoma.
That's an 80 percent success rate the past two seasons, a number that fits Mariners manager John McLaren's running mandate.
Jimerson doesn't want to look overly anxious over making the team. The 28-year-old is a husband and a father to 11-year-old Alexa and 14-month-old Tyson. And his locker is between Morse and Balentien. So he plays it cool.
But Lanette knows.
``This would be the first time starting the season with a team, making the 25-man roster,'' said by telephone from her home El Cerrito, Calif. ``I would say he's pretty, pretty excited.''
Lanette was 19 and a college student working three jobs when a court order made her guardian of Charlton, then 14, and his 8-year-old brother Terrance. Their father had left. Their mother's drug addiction led her to sometimes leave the young boys stranded at pizza shops, arcades or street corners.
``I learned what a budget was,'' said Lanette, who took parenting classes and found friends or shelters to take in the family. ``I learned how to cook so not everything was just fast foods. My brothers are very good kids. It wasn't like they were a burden.''
Houston drafted Charlton in the 24th round in 1997 out of high school, and he wanted to quit school then. Lynette talked him out of it. She felt Charlton had to get away from his past, so she made him agree to go to a four-year college at least a six-hour drive or one-hour flight away. When USC didn't accept him, Jimerson chose a six-hour flight.
Shortly after arriving on the Miami campus in Coral Gables, Fla., he went to the baseball office. Tryouts wouldn't start for another few days, but Jimerson spent an entire day there, uninvited, meeting coaches and players.
He made the team, but was on the bench. Coach Jim Morris advised him to transfer. But then his roommate, Marcus Nettles, got hurt. Jimerson hit leadoff home runs in each of the first two games of the 2001 College World Series and was the MVP of the series, which the Hurricanes won.
On Sept. 4, 2006, at Philadelphia, Jimerson pinch-hit for Roger Clemens and hit a home run in his first major league at-bat. It broke up Cole Hamels' perfect game with two outs in the sixth inning. But he never stayed with the team. He said Houston expected too much, too soon.
``Run, throw, hit, play defense. Who am I supposed to be, Barry Bonds?'' he said, leaning forward in a stool at his locker in the back corner of Seattle's clubhouse.
Now he is comfortable with the Mariners allowing him to just run and play.
Lanette said she and her brothers are trying to repair their broken bond with their parents, who both live in Oakland.
Jimerson is reluctant to talk much about that. His sister says of Charlton and his dad: ``It's fair to say there's definitely a relationship there. But it's hard to define.
``Still, there are some things you can't make up for, you know?''