Navajo Ballplayer Makes the Big Leagues

Flagstaff, AZ – Jacoby Ellsbury made his professional baseball debut with the Boston Red Sox this weekend. He's believed to be the first Native American of Navajo descent to ever play in the big leagues. Daniel Kraker reports from KNAU's Indian Country News Bureau.

Ellsbury grew up playing baseball in Oregon near the Warm Springs reservation. But he's an enrolled member of the Colorado River Indian Tribes in western Arizona, and now the only Native American playing in the big leagues. He made his debut Saturday at Fenway Park in Boston, where he received a standing ovation after recording his first hit. Ellsbury's mother Margie says she's proud about the trail her son is blazing for other Native American ballplayers.

AX: he's half Navajo, half white, and people think he's Spanish, you know they kind of tease him about being Indian, racist names, but he blows it off, so they don't make it a big deal anymore, and just accept him as one of their team members.

There hasn't been a prominent Native American ballplayer in more than 50 years, since Allie Reynolds, a member of the Muscogee Creek Nation, pitched for the Yankees. Ellsbury was drafted by the Red Sox two years ago out of Oregon State University. During his last year there he was one of only 30 Native Americans playing collegiate baseball.

For Arizona Public Radio, I'm Daniel Kraker