By Any Name He's A Legend Back Home

You talk to somebody in the part of North Carolina that Franklin- or Chris, if you prefer- Jacobs comes from and you start being convinced that he's some sort of urban legend.

You're told things like: He hit home runs so far that people in the next time zone gazed upward in awe as they passed overhead. He was so feared that opposing pitchers would quake as he came to bat. They usually chose to treat him like Barry Bonds and hand out an intentional pass.

As an offensive tackle in football, he was so good that, after his freshman year, Ohio State came calling.

He was every bit as much a force in basketball, easily the best player in the whole area.

So, when you finally get to meet him, you start looking around for the blue ox Babe because this isn't your normal ball player, this is Paul Bunyan.

He's certainly big enough at 6-5, 260 so let's see if we can either enhance or dispel the myth that surrounds him- at least, it does back home in Carolina.

About that bat, I never heard of one that heavy, even remotely. "Well, I made it myself. What I did was wrap duct tape around it till it weighed that much."

As for the home runs. He did set the school record but naturally enough, they grow in distance which each retelling. He himself doesn't claim them.

Was he walked a lot? Yes, he seldom got anything good to hit. In 29 games he was passed 18 times.

How about football? "After my freshman year, I remember Ohio State, Florida State and North Carolina State asked about me. But when I was a sophomore, one day we were doing a lot of pushing and shoving out there and I thought I could get hurt playing this game so I quit."

Basketball? yes, he led his team in rebounding and scoring but, although he comes from Michael Jordan country, he never had any aspirations of being the next M. J. "No, it was always baseball for me and I think I made the right choice."

The Dodgers do, too. You gotta love that power potential and they were delighted to take him in the 17th round. He wasted no time signing and now is a member of the Gulf Coast Dodgers where he's vying for first baseman time at a position already well-stocked with Kyle Orr and Jesus Gomez.

And he's finding that hitting home runs isn't as easy in a league played on practice fields built for big league slugger.

The fences on Dodgertown Field One where this club plays its home games curve in an arc away from the foul lines, rather than slice across to center.

"The other day in practice I got into one and thought 'That's out." Then I looked and the outfielder was back catching it. I must have hit that ball 400 feet. Those alleys are long and that's my power - in the gaps."

About his name? "It's Franklin Christian Jacobs so a lot of people call me Chris from my middle name." Told that pro nicknames tend to come from plays on the last name so he'll probably be "Jake", he answered, "Jake. I like that. Call me 'Jake."

A couple of days later he got his first pro hit and manager Juan Bustabad yelled, "Way to hit it, Jake." Okay, it was only a single but it was hit very hard. Besides, if he does become a legend in this game, it will grow in distance anyway.

Meanwhile I want to get a look at that bat.

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