Charlton Jimerson, who played for the Mariners despite homelessness, has written an autobiography. But the death Sunday of his brother is a stark reminder that his story is still being written.
Former Mariners outfielder Charlton Jimerson has written a book about his improbable journey to the major leagues, including early life with a crack addicted mother and pre-teen stints in a homeless shelter.
But Jimerson, 35, got a stark reminder this week that his life story is still being written.
Last Saturday Jimerson talked with The Seattle Times about his jarring, self-published memoir, “Against All Odds: A Success Story”, detailing his climb from a gritty Oakland suburb to the Houston Astros. Later that day, he spoke via video call with his older brother, Eugene, promising him a signed book.
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The next day, his brother was dead.
Police in Jimerson’s hometown of Hayward, Calif., say Eugene, 42, was arrested Sunday evening on suspicion of being under the influence after he was seen darting in and out of traffic. While being moved between jails, he had an undisclosed medical issue and was pronounced dead upon being taken to a hospital. His death is under investigation.
“It’s been tough on the whole family because of everything we’ve been through already,’’ Jimerson said this week. “My brother didn’t have an easy life, but there was always hope that he could get it turned around.’’
Jimerson says his brother — one of four siblings — was in and out of jail and frequently used drugs. Charlton Jimerson escaped at age 14 when his older sister, Lanette, then 19, took him and a younger brother into her home.
As detailed in the book, their father, Eugene Sr., abandoned the family, while their mother, Charlene, was deteriorating from her addictions. Jimerson grew up surrounded by drug pushers, shuttled among foster care, a homeless shelter and his best friend’s house before his sister provided stability.
I realized that my success in life was bigger than baseball.” - Charlton Jimerson
His grades gained him acceptance to the University of Miami, where he walked on to its powerhouse baseball team. A strong senior season saw him drafted by the Astros.
Several arduous minor-league seasons later, Jimerson made a one-game Astros debut as a defensive replacement in 2005. The book ends the following year, with a September call-up, and Jimerson hitting a home run off Cole Hamels in his first big-league plate appearance.
A final paragraph has Jimerson basking in the home run’s afterglow, reflecting on his struggles.
“I realized that my success in life was bigger than baseball,’’ he wrote.
But life has since thrown Jimerson some more curves.
The book ends before his 2007 arrival in Seattle following a minor-league trade and September call-up. But a sequel might begin with those days with the Mariners, where Jimerson notched a pinch-hit single at Yankee Stadium and later belted his second and final major-league homer off Brian Stokes of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.
The following spring, the Mariners picked Jimerson for their final roster spot over pitcher R.A. Dickey, and he opened 2008 with the team at Safeco Field.
Ten days later, he was designated for assignment and never played in the majors again.
Jimerson bounced around Class AAA Tacoma, independent leagues and AA stints with the Twins and Angels. By 2009, a bank initiated foreclosure proceedings against Jimerson, seizing and selling the five-bedroom, 3,800-square-foot dream home he’d built in a posh Houston suburb.
He says his monthly mortgage was $3,000, roughly what the independent Newark Bears paid him for the entire 2009 season. Like so many Americans after the 2008 recession, he owed more than his home was worth, and his big paydays had disappeared.
His playing days ended after 2010, as did his marriage to his first wife Reza Aguilar, who took their young sons, Tyson and Nicolas, to live in Florida. Jimerson fought the move in a bitter divorce, but retained only partial custody, which meant flying the boys to Houston one weekend per month.
“For the first two years, I would fly to pick them up and fly them back to Houston,’’ he said. “Then, I would fly back to drop them off and fly back home for work on Monday. So, I was paying four round-trip tickets every month until my youngest was old enough to fly as an unaccompanied minor.’’
Through it all, he’s persevered.
Jimerson enrolled at Rice University and finished a computer science and mathematics degree he’d started at Miami. He’s now a technology consultant for a Houston company working with oil and gas conglomerates.
Now remarried, he and his wife, Candace, have a daughter, Carter, 2, and a son on the way. Their house is in the same suburb as his previous one and he coaches youth baseball there.
He says his baseball traits of hard work and focus have helped his working life. But he can also appear closed off and uncommunicative, defense mechanisms from growing up not knowing whom to trust.
“My sister is still helping me work on that,’’ he said.
Lanette Jimerson says her brother has trust issues and often avoids relationships, fearing they won’t last.
“I think it’s hard when you grow up not feeling valued a lot because your parents don’t encourage you,’’ she said.
He is rebuilding a relationship with his father, now a drug-abuse counselor in San Francisco. But he barely sees his mother, despite her being clean again. Relations with siblings remain distant.
Jimerson feels fortunate to have spoken with his brother before his death. His sister was with Eugene.
“He’d heard his brother had a book out and wanted his own copy,’’ Lanette said. “So, I said, ‘Here, let’s call him up and ask him for one.’ ’’
She says Jimerson has stepped up since, helping her deal with family and other arrangements. It’s given her hope his work on personal issues is leading somewhere.
Jimerson published his 138-page book last month. His first book signing is in the Houston area Tuesday, the same day his only two big-league teams play at Safeco Field.
He figures he might have a second book in him.
“A lot of people are afraid of getting knocked down,’’ he said. “Not me. I’ve been getting knocked down my whole life, and I know how to pick myself up.’’