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Older sister sacrifices for baseball dream

Miami's Charlton Jimerson credits sister Lanette, who raised him and their younger brother. What she did "takes true strength,'' he says.

By MICHAEL CORBO

© St. Petersburg Times,
published June 8, 2001


While playing ball in the schoolyard in Hayward, Calif., Charlton Jimerson was like any kid.

He played Strikeout, a game in which he and his friends drew a strike zone with a crayon on the wall of the school building and played with a tennis ball and bat. When Jimerson stepped up to bat, he imagined himself hitting like his hero, Rickey Henderson, and dreamed of one day making it to the major leagues.

Today, Jimerson is the starting centerfielder for the University of Miami. Now when he steps up to the plate, he thinks of another hero, his sister, Lanette, 26.

Lanette was left to raise Charlton and younger brother Terrance when their mother became a crack addict. Their father is not a factor in their lives.

"What (Lanette) did takes true strength," Charlton said. "Without her, I don't know if I would be where I am today."

Charlton, 21, took another step toward achieving his dream Wednesday when the Houston Astros selected him in the fifth round (146th overall) of the major-league baseball draft.

Jimerson is batting .299 with eight home runs and 24 stolen bases in 27 attempts, and has helped lead the 'Canes to their seventh College World Series trip in eight years.

"Charlton is a motivational leader," catcher Greg Lovelady said. "He has been through so much in his life. He always knows how to bring the team up, no matter what the situation."

That probably is because of Jimerson's past. During the days of "Strikeout," when the game was done, Jimerson would find himself alone with Terrance after his mother would take them somewhere and disappear.

Lanette would come to the rescue. Eventually she fought for custody of the two when she was 17 and a freshman at Cal State-Hayward. Although Lanette was too young to gain custody, their older brother, Derell, was 21, and when he attained custody, Charlton, 15 at the time; Terrance, 9, and Lanette moved in.

"I don't think I've gone through anything that was too difficult to overcome," Jimerson said. "I had my sister and brothers to support me, and I think everyone is faced with tough situations."

Lanette worked as many as three jobs to help support the family while Charlton was hard at work trying to achieve his baseball dreams.

When he finished high school, he was drafted in the 24th round by Houston, but he decided to go to Miami and pursue a degree and continue his baseball career.

He enrolled at Miami on an academic scholarship. Coach Jim Morris had never heard of him. So Jimerson made a portfolio with some of his newspaper clippings and wrote an essay to the coach.

Morris loved Jimerson's motivation, and Jimerson quickly found himself on the team.

Despite early struggles -- hitting .253 in 1998, .263 in '99 and .206 last season -- Jimerson never gave up. His perseverance paid off this season, culminating with a three-run home run in the clinching Super Region win against Clemson.

"I was so happy," Jimerson said. "The previous years here have not been too joyful for me. I don't like to fail, and I'm a competitor."

Jimerson sat on the bench during the 1998 and 1999 College World Series, when the Hurricanes won their third national title.

"I'm just trying to do whatever I can to make it last as long as I can," Jimerson said. "I'm living a dream right now and just letting it ride."

College World Series

WHEN: Today through June 16.

WHERE: Johnny Rosenblatt Stadium, Omaha, Neb.

WHO: Miami, Georgia, Tennessee, Cal State Fullerton, Nebraska, Southern Cal, Stanford, Tulane.

TODAY ON TV: Tulane vs. Stanford, 3 p.m., ESPN; Nebraska vs. Cal State Fullerton, 7 p.m., ESPN.

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