When Jacoby Ellsbury is asked what he learned from his mother, Margie, the first thought that comes to mind is her belief in the importance of hard work. As such, the future big leaguer could always count on her as a source of support and encouragement while he chased his dreams.
"If you put your mind to it, you can accomplish it," Ellsbury said, summing up the message. "She was great. Raising four boys, I just think about all of the sacrifices she made for us. Working, taking us to ballgames and basically allowing me to do what I do now. A big part of that was my mom."
Having delighted in watching her oldest son's success, Margie McCabe said that she recognized Ellsbury's motivation, discipline and competitive nature from an early age. She recently found an assignment that Ellsbury submitted as an elementary school student in Oregon, outlining his vision of a future that was to come.
"He was 10 years old and he said that his dream was to play Major League Baseball, about being in the 'hot box,' winning the World Series, being on a baseball card and seeing Ken Griffey Jr.," McCabe said. "He also mentioned that he knows a lot of kids want to play baseball, and only a few kids will make it. But he said, 'I think I will.' He said that it would take a lot of work and practice. That's what he did as a child."
Logging countless miles shuttling Ellsbury and his three younger brothers to various practices and tournaments throughout the Pacific Northwest, McCabe said that she spent a lot of time holding a video camera of Ellsbury's games at his request, which the budding athlete would then review to critique his performance.
"We were always busy just playing sports," Ellsbury said. "That was our household. Our vacations were this tournament or that tournament, with me or one of my brothers. That's how our weekends were spent, and that's how our weekdays were spent when my parents got off work. We were always headed to a game, tournament or practice."
Ellsbury had a strong example to follow. His mother is a full Navajo Native American and continues to work five days per week as an early childhood interventionist for the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs in Oregon; his father, Jim, worked as a forester for the Bureau of Indian Affairs. McCabe said that Ellsbury often asks when she will retire, but that holds little appeal to her.
"She works with young kids, the youth on the reservation, still to this day," Ellsbury said. "She's working with young little ones; she enjoys working with the kids. Every day, she's doing something else for someone. She's thoughtful, always putting other people first. She cares about other people. That's the kind of heart she has."
Life on the reservation represents an important part of Ellsbury's story, and he is proud of his heritage and his ancestors. As a child, he treasured the opportunity to spend periods of time in Arizona and New Mexico, where he got to know his grandmother and learned about the Navajo language and traditions.
"There was never really a sit-down, but I lived it," Ellsbury said. "I was very grateful that I had the opportunity to do that. It definitely was an honor."
McCabe said that though Ellsbury never met his late grandfather, Franklin McCabe Sr., she believes he has been a presence in the center fielder's life.
"When I was growing up, my dad told us that if we rubbed the feet of the dragonfly on the bottom of our bare feet, we would gain the ability to run faster," McCabe said. "When Jacoby was little, I told him and his brothers the same thing. I remember watching them do that. Jacoby has caught his share of dragonflies, and he has always been a really fast runner."
Recently, McCabe and her son Matthew were attending one of Ellsbury's games against the Angels in Anaheim when a dragonfly buzzed in to visit the seating area. Later that week, at Seattle's Safeco Field, she said it happened again, hovering over a spectator's head for about five seconds. It was too much of a coincidence to ignore.
"I wish I would have had the frame of mind to take a picture," McCabe said. "That's my thought, is that my dad died much too early and never had a chance to say goodbye. That's just kind of his way of showing that he's present, that his spirit is present."
Ellsbury continues to pay tribute in subtle ways; his shoes feature the patterned patches of a dragonfly's wing. McCabe said that she is proud that Ellsbury continues to demonstrate the values that he learned as a young man.
"I appreciate that Jacoby remembers some stories and how he was brought up in the church, believing in God," McCabe said. "God has blessed me with this incredible son. When he was a little guy, I knew that he had the drive to become whatever he wanted to be. He showed that really early."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.