A name to remember: Jason Chapman
By TONY ADAME
In August, Cindy Chapman drove to her sister Caroline's house in Truckee.
Along for the ride with her were her husband, Kelvin, oldest son Jason, a soon to be high school senior, and youngest son Brett, then 12 years old.
A thousand tears and a little boy's heartbreak later, three of them came back.
Jason stayed behind.
"Brett was absolutely not going to come home when we dropped Jason off," Cindy said. "It wasn't until he saw me crying that he changed his mind. People always ask me how I could let one of my children go away. I always tell them it was no harder than having him stay here and see what he would go through, the frustration. That's the truth of it."
The truth of it now is this: Jason, an all-North Bay League outfielder and standout basketball player for Ukiah High School as a junior, didn't go to Truckee High School and have a very good year.
Jason went to Truckee, which competes in Nevada prep sports, and had a Blow-the-doors-out, Call your crying mother and tell her how good you did, Outstanding, Believe the hype, College coaches want to know your name, Girls follow you home type of year * in both sports.
"The first time I saw him play was in a pick-up game in August," Truckee head basketball coach Keith Crawford said in a phone interview Monday. "I watched him play once and told the first person I saw I'd got a Christmas gift in the month of August. He's a hell of a player. The only thing I was upset about was I didn't get him for two years."
After tearing up the Truckee hardwood to the tune of 22.3 points per game this season and being named second team all-state, Jason went on to have a monster season on the baseball diamond.
Jason played shortstop for the Wolverines and, batting leadoff, he hit .595 in league with a 1.276 slugging percentage.
He had 20 RBIs, eight home runs, three triples, and four doubles in 47 at-bats. Jason also led the team with 31 runs and 19 stolen bases as Truckee set a new greater Nevada record with 141 stolen bases in 31 games. He led Truckee in all categories except for doubles.
Chapman also set the Greater Nevada record by hitting successfully in all 31 of Truckee's games this year, breaking a six-year old state record. Statistics from Truckee's playoff games weren't available at press time.
Now, with scouts from colleges and pro baseball knocking at his door, it begs just one question.
Why did he leave Ukiah?
It's safe to say Jason Chapman was living in a fish bowl from the moment he picked up a baseball bat.
It's what happens when you're the son of an ex-major leaguer and probably the greatest athlete to ever walk the halls at Ukiah High School, where you're destined to end up. Expectations for Jason, suffice it to say, ran pretty high.
And when it became obvious that Jason was a special athlete, those expectations got even higher.
From the start, though, there appeared to be conflicts.
Chapman is, by one coach's description, an "intense," athlete, as are a lot of elite prep athletes.
Whether or not that played into the problem should be inconsequential. He's a teenager dealing with adults.
Some felt that his father, Kelvin, a Ukiah native who played in the New York Mets organization for nine years, took too big a role.
Some felt that Jason himself had a bad attitude.
There was an incident where Jason got sent down from the varsity baseball team his sophomore year. There was an incident where he was benched on the varsity basketball team his junior year.
Either way, things were said between coaches and family, coaches and player, and feelings got hurt.
One Ukiah assistant coach went so far as to criticize Jason on an internet blog, which Cindy found out about and promptly had taken down after turning it into the district office. By the time his junior year ended, it was obvious to the Chapman family that a change needed to be made.
Problem is, for somebody that goes to school in Ukiah, there aren't a lot of options. There was Deep Valley Christian, but they cut their athletic program.
The Chapmans also considered Cardinal Newman and Montgomery, but Kelvin didn't want Jason to have to face his old teammates, kids he'd grown up playing with.
"Philosophically, we needed to move on. We felt after his junior year he wasn't getting what he needed out of it," Kelvin said. "If you don't like or agree with the coaches at Ukiah you don't have a lot of options, so we decided on this."
August 1, Cindy called Ukiah High School to let them know Jason wouldn't be returning. It was the family's last contact with the high school.
"It seemed like they never embraced Jason here," Cindy said. "And I think maybe he got caught up in a lot of politics, which wasn't fair to him. We wanted to give him a chance to be just Jason, which he's always been to us, and not Kelvin's son', which meant taking him out of the fishbowl."
In Truckee, Jason had a built-in support system in Caroline and her husband Bruce, a contractor Jason spent the previous summer working with and got along with great. There were also cousins to lean on for family.
Cindy has got to see him play quite a bit more than Kelvin because of Kelvin's coaching responsibilities at Mendocino College, but it was a decision neither parent regrets.
And, with both the boys basketball team and baseball team at Ukiah finishing in the middle of the North Bay League in both sports this season, Wildcats fans can only wonder: what if?
Now, there's no telling what might happen to the boy who left Ukiah for Truckee.
Kelvin has been contacted by both the Cincinnati Reds and the California Angels, although if either team drafted Jason he would most likely head to a junior college before or if he headed to the minors. It's a "draft and watch" process major league teams sometimes use on late-round draft picks.
Santa Rosa Junior College (Kelvin's old school), Sacramento City and Consumnes River are all in the running for Jason's lethal bat and blazing 3.7 speed to first base, but nothing is certain yet.
"The numbers are stuff you can't ignore," Kelvin said. "He's got legitimate baserunner speed for Major League Baseball.
"He's had a great year in Truckee. He's made some great friends, lifelong friends. We're really proud of him."
And, someday, Kelvin might just be known as Jason's dad.