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Hurricane Season Unlikely hero Charlton Jimerson led Miami to its second NCAA title in three years

June 25, 2001
June 25, 2001

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June 25, 2001

Hurricane Season Unlikely hero Charlton Jimerson led Miami to its second NCAA title in three years

When he made the phone call four years ago, Charlton Jimerson was
a nobody, and a clueless one at that. He had no idea that Miami,
almost without fail, made the pilgrimage to the College World
Series in Omaha each June or that he had no business expecting to
play for the Hurricanes with only one noteworthy season of high
school ball in Hayward, Calif., under his belt.

This is an article from the June 25, 2001 issue Original Layout

Still, like so many other hopeful nobodies before him, Jimerson,
who had been accepted at Miami and offered a partial academic
scholarship, got a brief long distance audience with coach Jim
Morris and began rattling off his athletic talents. He offered to
send newspaper clips extolling his performance as a senior at
Mount Eden High, where he'd batted .424 with four home runs.
Morris listened until the nobody said one last thing: "Oh, and I
was just drafted by the Houston Astros in the 24th round."

"I asked him, 'Why didn't you say so in the first place?'" said
Morris, recalling the conversation last week. "See, ever since I
got a call years ago from a young pitcher nobody had heard of--a
guy by the name of Kevin Brown--I learned that I ought to hear
everyone out."

Maybe no one more so than Jimerson, who stole the show at the
2001 College World Series and led Miami to its fourth national
championship and second in three years. Jimerson, a 6'2",
200-pound centerfielder, provided stolen bases (seven, including
four in the Hurricanes' 12-6 semifinal rout of Tennessee),
glovework (his wall-climbing catch helped Miami to a 4-3 win
over Southern Cal) and momentum (he had a leadoff home run in
each of Miami's first two victories). Even after Jimerson had
been named the series' Most Outstanding Player on the heels of
Miami's 12-1 rout of Stanford in the title game, it remained
difficult to overstate the breadth of his performance in Omaha.
"Given where Charlton came from, only one word comes to mind,"
said Morris. "Unbelievable."

By all rights, Jimerson should never have gotten to Miami. He
grew up in a single-parent household with his younger brother,
Terrance, but by the time he turned 13 his mother, Charlene, had
fallen into heavy drug use, according to his sister, Lanette,
who was 20 at the time and a student at Cal State-Hayward. When
it became obvious that Charlene couldn't care for the boys, and
with their father, Eugene, homeless in Berkeley, Lanette stepped
in. She moved her brothers into her $600-a-month apartment and
became, says Charlton, "our mother in every sense of the word.
She saved us. She saved the family. I had a hard time in the
beginning, because she was always on me, about my grades,
everything. But she gave up so much for me, I couldn't complain.
She didn't let me become bitter, and that made all the
difference."

As time passed Charlton began rebuilding his relationships with
his parents. "I'd talk to my mother by phone," he says, "and I'd
ride to Berkeley to see my dad, find him on the street and hang
out with him. We might see a movie or just talk. Most people
wouldn't understand, but even with our past, all that pain, we're
doing fine."

At the beginning of this season at Miami, however, Jimerson's
baseball career was not. He'd been a part-time player who had
trouble hitting off-speed pitches and had little to show for his
stay in Coral Gables beyond a .240 average and $40,000 in student
loans, without so much as even a partial baseball scholarship.
Several impressive hitting displays by Jimerson during a series
of midseason practices, coupled with regular centerfielder Marcus
Nettles's struggles, landed Jimerson a starting spot with 26
games left in the season. He never relinquished the spot.

As Jimerson heated up, so did the Hurricanes. They won 19 of
their final 22 games to finish the regular season with a 44-12
record and ranked No. 1 in the nation, but foremost on their
minds was relieving the anguish of having failed to reach last
year's World Series. "We were in shock for a long time after
[losing in the regionals] last year," Miami first baseman Kevin
Brown said last Friday in Omaha. "We had to make it back here."

Stanford, too, was playing with a purpose: to avenge its
last-inning 6-5 loss to LSU in last year's finale. Despite
having lost six starting position players and its entire
rotation from 2000, the Cardinal had swept through this College
World Series much as Miami had, with capable pitching and
exceptional defense. But shaky fielding and big-game jitters
brought Stanford's demise. A fly ball lost in the sun by
freshman rightfielder Carlos Quentin, who was playing without
sunglasses on a bright day, led to a 4-0 Hurricanes lead after
three innings. Cardinal junior starter Mike Gosling, who seemed
unnerved by the many Miami base runners (for good reason: the
Hurricanes led the nation in stolen bases this season with 227),
was roughed up for seven runs in four innings. "We didn't do
much in the game today," said a shaken Stanford coach Mark
Marquess. "They hammered us pretty good." With the victory Miami
completed the postseason undefeated, at 9-0.

The day before the championship game, Charlton, who last month
graduated with a degree in computer science and last week was
drafted again by the Astros, this time in the fifth round, sat
quietly in a hotel hallway, waiting for Lanette and Terrance to
arrive from Hayward. "When we win, I guarantee Lanette will be
happier than I am," Charlton said. "I don't want this for myself.
I want this for everyone who helped me, gave me money to get by
or a place to stay. Mostly, though, I want to win it for
Lanette."

In the postgame bedlam, Lanette's piercing squeal cut the air
like a thunderclap as she pulled Charlton close. They stole a
quick hug before she shooed him off to collect his Most
Outstanding Player award. As teammates and well-wishers closed
around him, a drained Charlton struggled to lift the heavy
bronze trophy. Morris stepped from the crowd and lent a hand,
and together they searched for a place to set it down. Ever the
scold, Lanette would have none of it. "Hey, wait, you two! I
want a picture of this!" she bellowed. When Charlton winced his
disapproval, she stared daggers and said, "Give me a break. You
know it's not that heavy."

Her eyes growing misty, Lanette steadied herself for this
picture, as player and coach easily nestled the statue up
against their chests. She was right, of course. It didn't seem
heavy at all.

TWO COLOR PHOTOS: PHOTOGRAPHS BY DAMIAN STROHMEYER
"Given where Charlton came from, only one word comes to mind:
Unbelievable," said Morris.
"I don't want this for myself," said Charlton (scoring on the
Vols). "I want to win it for Lanette."