Jackson ready to shine bright no matter the position
Prep star expected to go early in Draft, although his future as a catcher is uncertain
SAN DIEGO -- Before his son reached high school, Dorian Jackson listened to young Alex's visions of playing professional baseball with a bit of a skeptical ear.
After all, if every child with a dream of playing in the Majors made it to The Show, half the country's work force would clock in at the ballyard each day.
Sure, Alex Jackson always had the sweet swing, the raw power and the knack for making plays. But he wasn't the only one.
It wasn't until the fall before Alex's freshman season at Rancho Bernardo High School that Dorian realized just how serious his son was. The epiphany came on a Friday night when -- once again -- he found himself driving his son to the batting cage for a few extra swings.
"At 14 years old, most kids are with their friends having a good time on Friday night, watching football," Dorian said. "This kid was in the cages. Right then and there, I knew this kid had it figured out."
Jackson is a week away from seeing his dream become a reality. In almost every mock Draft available, he profiles as a top five pick, and MLB.com's Jim Callis has Jackson going No. 2 overall to the Marlins.
The final verdict comes as the Draft takes place on June 5-7, beginning with the Draft preview show on MLB.com and MLB Network on Thursday, June 5, at 6 p.m. ET. MLB.com's exclusive coverage of the second and third days will begin with a live Draft show at 12:30 p.m. ET on June 6.
MLB.com's coverage includes Draft Central, the Top 100 Draft Prospects list and Draft Tracker, a live interactive application that includes a searchable database of Draft-eligible players. Every selection will be tweeted live from @MLBDraftTracker, and you can also keep up to date by following @MLBDraft. And get into the Draft conversation by tagging your tweets with #mlbdraft.
A catcher with all the tools to stay behind the plate, many feel Jackson projects best as an outfielder. He has a cannon for an arm, and a position change may help prolong his career down the road. But Jackson isn't concerned with "down the road" right now.
"I just keep my focus here -- You have to," Jackson says. "You can't let this and that go to your head. You set your goals high, then you have to strive for them. That other stuff doesn't really matter."
Jackson's team won California's San Diego section championship during his freshman and junior seasons and is the No. 1 seed in the playoffs this year. With next week's Draft coinciding with the semifinals, Jackson isn't planning on making the cross-country trip.
"Young kids, they want the accolades, they want to be on the front page of the paper," Dorian said. "Alex would rather have his team be on the front page of the paper than just himself."
Jackson, who sports a muscular 6-foot-1, 215-pound frame, has a slight uppercut in a swing with very few kinks, giving him the best raw power among high school bats in the Draft class.
"He's got unbelievable power for a kid his age," said Sammy Blalock, Jackson's coach at Rancho Bernardo. "He's a big hitter, and average-wise, too, he's always been up there. He runs really well, and he can throw the ball 90 mph. That's the full package of tools."
It's never hard to identify Jackson from afar. In batting practice, he's the one consistently launching balls to the fence with a wooden bat. Internet folklore claims scouts recognize Jackson simply from the sound of his bat.
Jackson's 47 career home runs tie him with former Indians prospect Johnny Drennen for the all-time San Diego section record.
But Blalock is quicker to point out the intangibles. First, Jackson has never missed a game in four years. He's also been given pitch-calling duties, which Blalock's pitching coach has hardly ever ceded in 20 seasons.
"He's very calm and confident," said Blalock, the uncle of former Rangers third baseman, Hank Blalock. "He doesn't get too excited, he doesn't get out of his head. That's a good thing to have, especially in baseball."
Blalock recalled last year's playoffs, when Jackson entered the tournament mired in a slump. In five games, he went deep three times, including a leadoff shot in the finals against Granite Hills.
The power is what turns heads, but Jackson is by no means a one-tool player. His arm projects as plus, and he'll likely be able to hit for average, too (though some say his swing is a bit long and too deep-ball oriented).
Jackson also has good hands and a quick transfer behind the plate -- which Blalock says is the most improved part of his game in the last season. If Jackson stays at catcher, he'd be one of the game's speedier backstops, too.
"You can never stop working on stuff," Jackson says. "You can never stop improving your game. There are so many little things."
Dorian Jackson theorizes that his son's work ethic is a family trait. Both of Alex's grandfathers worked for the postal service and were up before dawn fulfilling their responsibilities every day. They engrained a mindset in Alex's parents, who passed that along to their son.
In that sense, Alex is a typical Jackson. He's the one who begged his parents to buy a tee and a net for the garage. And he's the one who used that tee every day after school until his parents were forced to remind him of his other responsibilities.
"He calls himself boring," Dorian said. "And I say, 'No, you're focused. You know what you want, and you're not going to let anything get in the way of it. If that means you're boring, you know what? Bro, you should be the most boring kid in the world.'"
Boring? For Jackson, the next week will be anything but. He's almost a lock to become the first first-rounder out of Rancho Bernardo since Cole Hamels in 2002. In the meantime, he's competing for a third state title.
"I'm tremendously lucky, and I know it's unbelievable that I have this opportunity," Jackson said. "It's something that I cherish very much. But at the same time I enjoy it, and I try to share it with my teammates, and not just be worried about my future."