While baseball has been on hiatus due to the COVID-19 global pandemic, I’ve spent time tracking down former D-backs players to see what they’re up to these days.
This week, I spoke with former first baseman/outfielder Conor Jackson, who is splitting his time between Arizona and California.
A first-round Draft pick by the D-backs in 2003, Jackson played in Arizona from 2005-10. In his first three full seasons in the big leagues, Jackson had a combined .822 OPS. Diagnosed with Valley Fever in 2009, the illness sapped Jackson of his strength, causing him to miss all but 30 games that year. He was never the same player after that and eventually retired following Spring Training in 2013.
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MLB.com: I don’t think I’ve seen you around the ballpark at all since you retired.
Jackson: I did a signing there once, I want to say, four or five years ago. Dude, I’m not going to lie, I travel a lot. I spend half my time in California and half my time here [in Arizona], so usually during the season I’m in Cali.
MLB.com: I noticed when I was preparing for our talk today that you have no social media accounts. Why is that?
Jackson: I’m kind of anti-social media, so I’m not on any of the platforms. I just don’t really believe in it. I get it, I understand it, I’m just not a proponent of it. No Instagram, no Facebook, no Twitter. I did have one back in the past, and I found myself living on my phone too much, and now I just want to be more kind of in the moment. I don’t really like how society is going with that right now.
MLB.com: Too much looking at your phone?
Jackson: Yeah, I think the art of the conversation is really limited nowadays. I like to rap out with people rather than just look at my phone.
MLB.com: Is it a conscious decision not to be around baseball, or are you just busy with other interests?
Jackson: You know, it’s a little bit of everything. I love the game of baseball. I love what it gave me, I love every moment of it when I played it. There were things I wanted to do after. Right when I stopped playing, like the minute I retired basically, I got a backpack and I went to Europe for months. And then I went to Southeast Asia for half a year. I’d just travel. I just wanted to take a deep breath. A lot of people don’t understand that I was 31 and I had the rest of my life in front of me, and all I knew at that time was baseball. So, the transition is very interesting. It really is. You’re not known as Joe Schmoe the baseball player. You’re known as Joe Schmoe the human being. You know? It’s different.
MLB.com: I would think it would be even more difficult for you because of the way your career ended. I mean, you were very successful and then you got Valley Fever and missed a year, maybe a little more, and just never seemed the same.
Jackson: Totally, totally. What a freak thing. It was a really freaky thing. I just missed some important at-bats in the prime of my career, and then a little mental part creeped into it where you wonder if you’re still there physically, and when you get back, you’re not starting every day like you were before. There were just a lot of things that happened, really. My favorite thing was the locker room. One thing I say that I miss the most is the guys and just having the routine of the locker room. But when you’re so stressed out about the game and your production, it’s OK to take a step back, and that’s what I did.
MLB.com: Did you get sick in Spring Training of 2009?
Jackson: I think I probably caught it in Spring Training, and then I stopped playing in mid-May. It just kept deteriorating. Just every day I was sleeping longer. It’s like mono on steroids, is how I describe it. A lot of people ask me about it. I feel like I’m the guru about it because I had to learn about it so much. I remember when [former big leaguer] Ike Davis had it. I would have conversations with he and his mom. It’s just bizarre, because some days you feel good and some days you feel crappy, and so it plays with your head a little bit, too. You start saying, “I can’t be sick this long, what’s wrong with me?”
MLB.com: Are you healthy now?
Jackson: Yeah, I feel great. Healthy, no complaints. I’ve been working out. [Former Brewers outfielder] Geoff Jenkins owns some F45 [workout] facilities, so he got me in this class, which I never thought I would do. I was always a loner when it came to working out, I liked to do my own thing. He got me to do these classes with him, and I just love them now.
MLB.com: And you’re still traveling?
Jackson: We had this Bali trip set up. Six weeks in Bali. And we were supposed to leave on May 21. That got kiboshed, which was kind of a bummer. I rent a place in Manhattan Beach in the summer and get in the water and surf. I love it. Just trying to live my best life (laughs). But I’m not going to lie, I’m getting bored. You can only play golf and surf and work out so much. You need something to do. When people say retirement is so awesome, like, you need to keep your mind occupied. It’s not healthy to not have something to look forward to or a purpose. That’s why I say I’m not ruling out going back to the game. Because it’s always my first love.
MLB.com: What was it that made you want to travel right away after retiring?
Jackson: Traveling is hard to describe, but I just love going and seeing different cultures and meeting different people. It’s fun to get other people’s perspectives, especially when you go to a different country and they’re like, "Baseball? I don’t even know what that is." I don’t even say I played baseball when I meet people now. I just say I do a little private lending, which I do, and if baseball comes up I’ll say that I did play it, but it’s not something I say first to people.
MLB.com: So business-wise, you’re doing private lending now?
Jackson: Yeah, I’m doing some of that. I got into it about five years ago, and that keeps me somewhat busy, and I’ve done some fix and flips right now. I’m working on one right now. I just like to keep busy. If I feel like I’m getting bored I’ll try to mentally go somewhere and do something work-wise. Fix up a house or something like that.
MLB.com: Hopefully we get you back out to the ballpark, because I think fans would really like an opportunity to see you again.
Jackson: I definitely need to do that. They were great to me in Arizona.
Steve Gilbert has covered the D-backs for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB.