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Old 04-02-2006, 10:33 AM   #64
Ring of Famer

Join Date: Dec 2002
Posts: 31,806

Nice story about Marlins first baseman Mike Jacobs.

43rd round pick makes good. Hard not to root for this kid.

A Day for Mother

On Opening Day, when new Marlins first baseman Mike Jacobs takes in his new surroundings as an everyday major-leaguer, he'll reflect on his mother's teachings.


JUPITER - This is about Collette.

At least that's the way Mike Jacobs sees it. He's here, on the verge of Opening Day in the big leagues, because he defied the odds and because he had a mother who believed in him when no one else was around.

''If I make it big, I'll buy her a new house and make sure she can quit her job,'' said Jacobs, the Marlins' first baseman. ``She was always there for me. I can't tell you how much that meant to me.

``I remember when I was a kid she would pitch whiffle balls to me in the backyard. By the time we were done she would be black and blue.''

Collette laughed, saying, ``Yeah, he would pelt me pretty good. I'm glad he remembers that.

``He always had a true love for baseball. It's something he has wanted so long. To see him do so well, It's wonderful and nerve-wracking at the same time.''

Jacobs' father died of cancer when Mike was 6 years old, but he will carry the memory of his dad into this season, too.

''He was a real good high school athlete,'' said Jacobs, who has a tattoo on his back that reads ''JAKE'' in Gothic print. It serves as a tribute to his father. ''Everyone called him Jake, and that's what they call me,'' he said with a slight smile of pride.

Jacobs is one of those feel-good stories, the one about the kid nobody wanted who somehow made it to the majors. He was a catcher in high school in San Diego.

From time to time, he worked out with other Hilltop High grads Jose Silva, Todd Pratt and Bob Natal, major leaguers who went home in the winter.

But Jacobs was an afterthought. The Tampa Bay Devil Rays picked him in the 43rd round of the draft. He didn't sign with Tampa Bay and tried to gain attention playing for Grossmont (Calif.) Junior College. The Mets then drafted him in the 38th round.

You won't find Jacobs, a converted first baseman, reading the long lists of can't-miss prospects in Baseball America. It's fine reading, but it doesn't mean much to Jacobs, who ignored all the hype given to so many other players, and just went to work to prove everyone wrong.

''There are so many guys who weren't drafted high who made it,'' he said. ``I never thought that way.

``I just believed if I worked hard I would get a chance to prove myself.''

Jacobs, who was the Mets' organizational player of the year in 2005, got more than a chance. He got a helping hand from Pedro Martinez.

The Mets called him up last August. Four days later, Jacobs hit a pinch-hit, three-run home run in his first big-league at-bat. After the game, the Mets were preparing to leave for a road trip, and they told Jacobs he was being sent back to the minors.

Martinez heard they were sending Jacobs down, and had a tirade in the clubhouse over the decision, telling Mets manager Willie Randolph that Jacobs deserved to stay.

''It's just not right,'' Martinez told reporters at the time. ``It could frustrate a kid when he hits a three-run homer that puts us back in the game, and you send him back down.''

Martinez's words made a difference, and the Mets kept Jacobs. He made Martinez look like a genius. He hit a home run in each of his first four games. Jacobs finished the season with 11 homers in 100 at-bats. If you extrapolate the numbers to an entire season it comes out to 55 home runs for the year.

''I thanked Pedro for standing up for me,'' Jacobs said. ``What he did was awesome. He said he remembered what it was like coming up. For a guy like Pedro Martinez to stand up for you was something I'll never forget.''

Jacobs has always had to prove himself.

''It seemed like he always had so much going against him,'' said Collette Jacobs, a mortgage processor in San Diego. ``He was always so determined, and there was never a doubt in his mind or my mind that he would make it. But he was always an underdog.

``When you're drafted in the 43rd round, who is going to pay attention to you? But he has always found a way to make people notice him. They can't deny him. He opens eyes.''

Now Jacobs has a chance to be an everyday big-leaguer. Jacobs came to the Marlins along with right-hander Yusmeiro Petit and infielder Grant Psomas in the trade that sent Carlos Delgado to the Mets. No one expects Jacobs to replace Delgado's 33 homers, but Jacobs expects a lot out of this Marlins team.

''We all know what the opportunity is here, and we feel we can do something special,'' he said.

``I wouldn't say I'm surprised to get here. I put in a lot of hard work to get here. I always believed I would make it. That goes back to when I was growing up.

``It goes back to my mom believing in me.''
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