Every day, baseball’s most electrifying player stops moving long enough to answer his phone. Whether he has lined a ball into the gap and then stolen third or struck out three times, Marlins second baseman Jazz Chisholm Jr. knows what awaits him.
"I’m gonna get a call," he says. "An hour, exactly, after the game."
On the other end of the line is his first coach, the person who knows his swing better than anyone else. When Chisholm, 23, is playing well, the voice might say simply: "You did good tonight. Now go rest up and get ready for tomorrow." If he's struggling, the commentary is more specific: "You’ve gotta hit the ball! You’re striking out too much. Get on top of it, stay quick to the ball and use your legs."
"O.K.," Chisholm always replies. "Thank you, Grammy Pat."
He laughs now. He does not struggle often: He has a .926 OPS so far this season, and no one who smacks the ball squarer has stolen more bases. (He has barreled balls in 11% of his plate appearances and swiped seven bags without being caught.) But her coaching helps. "Every time she’s done it," he says, "I got two hits the next day!"
Baseball, it is often said, is a game for fathers and sons. Chisholm did not learn that cliché until he was a teenager at Life Preparatory Academy in Wichita, Kan. When he was growing up in Nassau, Bahamas, his baseball idol was his maternal grandmother, Patricia Coakley.
Coakley, 77, played shortstop for the Bahamian national softball team in the 1980s and starred on many amateur teams afterward. She finally retired only about a decade ago. Chisholm compares her to a rookie Francisco Lindor: "Tapping the ball around, running around the bases, making great defensive plays," he says. "She didn’t hit a lot of home runs. She was just out there making plays." One of Chisholm’s first memories involves watching her fly around the bases. "It was a wow moment," he says now of his toddler self. "I was like, I want to do that too."
Young Jasrado was close with both of his parents, Martinique Coakley and Jasrado Chisholm Sr., but he lived weekdays with his paternal grandparents, Judy and Hermis Chisholm. Grandma Judy convinced him to stick it out when, as a homesick high school freshman, he tried to quit boarding school and come home. It was from her that he learned to work, he says. Grammy Pat, with whom he spent the weekends, taught him to play.
On Opening Day, he debuted blue hair. Two days later, he laced up Grand Theft Auto–inspired cleats and stole second … off a lefty … on a pickoff. On the next pitch, he nabbed third, signaled himself safe from the dirt, jumped up and shimmied toward his teammates. A week later, he hit a 100-mph Jacob deGrom fastball into the upper deck and Euro stepped across the plate. After he strained a hamstring turning a routine grounder to shortstop into a single, he tweeted, three days into his 10-day injured list stint, "What do you mean it hasn’t been 10 days yet!!!??"
He smiles when people tell him he plays the game with a lot of joy. He knows exactly where he got that trait.
"She watches the game with a lot of joy," he says. "She needs to get mic’d up."
Coakley was the same way as a player, but she draws one important line for her grandson. Chisholm told her how much he admires the Braves’ Ronald Acuña Jr.. She noted a time Acuña disputed an umpire’s strike call. "I told Jasrado, 'Don’t let me ever see you do that or I’ll disown you!'" she says.
Chisholm laughs at this. "I can’t roll my eyes at an umpire without getting yelled at," he laments. "I’m like, Dang, can y’all get off my back? I can’t ask the umpire a question?"
But for the most part, his reactions are joyful. He plays "lavishly," Coakley says. For a while, he tried to hide that part of him. In 2017, as a 19-year-old shortstop for the Class A Kane County (Geneva, Ill.) Cougars in the Diamondbacks’ system, he pimped groundballs and stuck out his tongue after stolen bases and generally had the time of his life. His peers delighted in his energy, he says. Young stars such as reliever Archie Bradley, shortstop Nick Ahmed and second baseman Ketel Marte told him they would love to have a teammate with his passion. But many older players did not agree. So Chisholm desaturated the bright colors of his personality. The only way for him not to celebrate a stolen base was not to steal it. So he stopped running.
"I tried to change and be in my corner and not be as fun," he says. "The veteran guys, you know, the guys that are older and always telling me, 'Hey, you shouldn't do this' and 'You shouldn't do that'—I was trying to do it for them. And then I was struggling and then I would go back to being me for a minute, and then the veterans would say something, and then I’d go back to [being quiet] again and then the whole season is already over by the time I just realized: Just be myself."
He finished the year with a .248 average and a .683 OPS—and just three stolen bases.
Now he forces himself to act confident, even when he doesn’t feel that way. As a little boy, he was forever insisting he could do anything—play baseball with adults, navigate through the airport on his own—and most of the time, he was right.
"I’m only afraid of one thing, and that’s failure," he says. "Not being in the Hall of Fame. I know it’s far away, but that’s all I’m afraid of, really."
Well, failure and his grandmothers. He most recently drew Coakley’s ire on the day of that hamstring strain. Jasrado, she texted him that morning, I want you to be very careful today. I don't want you to do anything out of the ordinary, because I'm picking up something and I don't know what it is. Read this psalm before you go to the game.
"He didn’t read Psalm 91!" she says now. "He would have escaped the injury."
"I did!" he insists. "I just didn’t have my read receipts on that day."
As soon as she saw him walk off the field after the play, she knew he was hurt. So that day’s phone call was devoted to her prescription: Take a bath with Epsom salts in the hottest water you can bear, then dry off and coat your leg with olive oil.
"I do that, go to bed and I wake up feeling better every day," he reports. He expects to return from the injured list shortly after he is eligible on May 8.
He learned long ago to take her advice. In 2019, shortly after the Diamondbacks traded him to the Marlins, both grandmothers, his mother and a sister flew to Jacksonville to watch him play for the Double-A Jumbo Shrimp, the first professional game of his they attended. He went 0-for-4 with four strikeouts.
After the game, they went back to the hotel room. "My mom does my hair and my grandma sits there for an hour and a half, teaching me how to hit," he says. "She was like, 'No wonder why you’re hitting .200. Now that I can see you in person I can tell why. You look tense. You don’t look like you know how to swing a bat. You’re lucky you’ve even got 20 home runs!' I was like, 'Dang!' 'How about you go up there and don’t worry about none of this and just play the game you love?' The next day I went 4-for-4."
Coakley reminds him often to stick with what got him to the big leagues in the first place: You hit the ball harder than everybody and you run faster than everybody, she tells him, only barely exaggerating. Just do that.
She is not interested in talk of launch angle or spin rate. She wants her grandson to get his hands above the ball, swing hard and take off. She wants him to pimp groundballs and stick his tongue out after stolen bases and generally have the time of his life. And then, one hour after the game, she wants him to answer his phone.
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