Jeff Dahn Day 1 features: Justin Smith | Brandon Murray
MINNEAPOLIS – As the best amateur baseball players in the country gather at the Perfect Game National Showcase at the Metrodome this week to show off their skills to scouts of the collegiate and professional ranks, one name in particular stands out: Alex Jackson. Although he is the No. 1 ranked prospect for the 2014 class by Perfect Game, the young man does not display any overconfidence or cockiness about him. In fact, he is quite the opposite; an extremely humble individual blessed with the gifts he’s been given and trying to overachieve with everything he does.
Jackson, a two-year veteran of Perfect Game events, recognizes the importance of attending the National.
“It’s definitely a great feeling coming out here and being able to play with the best of the best,” said Jackson. “I just come out here trying to do what everyone else is trying to do. (I’m) just trying to go out there and show everybody your skill sets, and just complete and play the game we love.”
“It’s good to see my son and the other kids here that have put in the hard work and time and dedication and commitment that it takes to play a game that’s as difficult as baseball,” said Jackson’s father, Dorian, who travelled with Alex to Minneapolis.
The California standout turned heads on his first day at the showcase, setting an event record with a 91 mph throw from the catcher position, and he also threw 98 mph fro the outfield. A potential five-tool player from behind the plate, Jackson also ran a 6.83-second 60-yard dash and showed a great approach at the plate with a lot of power.
With the tools he possesses and pure athleticism he shows on the field, he may not play catcher for much longer. “Whether I end up catching, (playing) third base, (or) outfield, I’m just gonna go out there and give it my best all the time,” Jackson responded when asked if his future will be somewhere other than behind the plate. He gets plenty of action all over the field.
The California native is a member of the San Diego Show, arguably one of the best travel ball teams in the country, and has played with a lot of big name talents like Ian Clarkin and Gosuke Katoh, who were taken in the first and second rounds respectively by the New York Yankees.
“It’s an awesome thing,” Jackson said about playing with such a talented travel club. “It’s almost like you don’t even need to think. Everyone’s just in the spot they need to be. It’s almost like it’s one person playing the game by himself.”
The San Diego Show is not the only uniform Katoh and Jackson share. Both are products of Rancho Bernardo High School in Escondido, Calif. Jackson credits Katoh with being a great mentor as he has progressed through his high school years.
“He taught me a lot about leadership and how to be a leader by example, Jackson said of Katoh. “He’s probably the hardest worker I’ve ever played with. The way he goes about himself, he’s definitely a very special person.”
This week, however, is all about Alex Jackson. The young man who displays characteristics and maturity beyond his years has a great supporting cast in his family.
“I think what I’ve appreciated most about Alex is how he’s grown as a young man,” said Jackson’s father. “He’s an extremely responsible young man. He’s extremely humble, almost humble to a fault.”
Dorian Jackson couldn’t be more proud of the person Alex has become and continues to become. Desperately trying to fight the tears, Dorian proudly pointed down to the field at Alex and said, “To look on the field and see ‘Jackson’ on his shirt, the way he represents the family, what more could you ask for? He just makes us all proud and I’m not even talking about as a baseball player, I’m talking about as a person.
“I see the way he treats the younger kids. He’ll stop and he’ll give them whatever time he can. It’s just a blessing to see him do those kinds of things. We say, ‘Hey, at the end of the day this game is gonna come and go, but the way you treat people, your character, your love and discipline you have, they are gonna be with you your entire life,’ and he represents that.”
Alex Jackson realizes how fortunate he is to be able to play baseball at the level he does and refuses take it for granted. His work ethic will pay off for him in a big way, and it will go far beyond the diamond.
– Matt Rodriguez
For the second straight year the Perfect Game National Showcase is available for everyone to watch online. The live stream to all of the workouts, batting practice sessions and games can be found on iHigh's dedicated Perfect Game page:
Day 1 Workouts
The first day of the PG National Showcase kicked off as it usually does, as the first six teams (Columbia Blue, Gold, Green, Maroon, Navy and Purple) took their turns running the 60-yard dash prior to conducting the outfield, infield and catching drills, in addition to batting practice, before the first game kicked off in the early afternoon.
Carl Chester ran the fastest time on Day 1 with a 6.28 60-time. Chester also threw 93 mph from the outfield.
Jack Flaherty, a member of Perfect Game's No. 1 high school team in the nation, Harvard-Westlake, opened quite a few eyes by posting a 6.37 60-time, the second best on Day 1. Known more for his bat than for his wheels, he also showed a really nice swing, hitting several balls hard to the opposite field. He also added a booming double in Game that sailed over the center fielder's head in deep right-center, the farthest, and loudest, hit of the event so far in game action.
Leading the outfielders in arm strength was Michael Gettys, who set an event record with a 100 mph reading on his throws from right field. Gettys also ran an impressive 6.43 second 60 and look very impressive at the plate during batting practice.
Alex Jackson, as noted above, posted the second best throw from the outfield at 98 mph, and he too set his own event record with a 91 mph throw from behind the plate. His 1.75 POP time was also the best on the day. Jackson continued to wow onlookers with his BP session, using extremely quick hands to send towering flies to all parts of the field, and far out of the park, seemingly with little effort.
Chase Vallot also stood out behind the plate during the catching drills, with an easy release and arm strength, finishing second with a 89 mph throw down to second and a 1.87 POP time.
Twenty-five players threw 90 mph or better from the outfield. Nick Gordon had the best infield velocity of the day at 94, while Braxton Davidson showed the best arm at first base with a 88 mph throw.
A pair of hard-hitting, left-handed hitting first baseman hit back-to-back for the Gold team, Justin Bellinger and Davidson. Bellinger drove a handful of bombs to the upper deck in right field, with Bellinger doing the same on one of his first swings. Both are already ranked among the top prospects in the high school class of 2014 and have done nothing but cement that position with their early showing.
The overall consensus was that Jackson, Bellinger and Davidson, all members of the Gold squad, had the best rounds of BP on the day.
Read the Perfect Game National Showcase scout blogs for all of the workout results and more details reports:
• The first four pitchers that took the mound at this year's National Showcase were extremely impressive. Hawaiian lefty Kodi Medeiros kicked off the event with arguably the most impressive pure pitching performance on the day. He sat 91-93, touching 94, using a slinging, low three-quarters delivery that created a fair amount of deception and made him especially tough on left-handed hitters. The arm angle also complemented his low-80s slider, showing the ability to change speeds and throw strikes with both pitches.
Starting opposite Medeiros was Brandon Murray, who first pitch recorded 98 mph, easily the hardest thrown pitch on the day. Murray has a tall and sturdy frame with a power arm. He took a little off of his fastball during his second inning of work, working more in the 93-95 range while mixing in a promising breaking ball.
Another left-hander, Carson Sands, followed Medeiros for the Purple team. While Sands wasn't as dynamic, he worked in the 88-91 range peaking at 92, and showed the ability to get some sink on the pitch while throwing downhill. He also threw a big breaking 74 curveball.
Luis Ortiz was up next, yet another powerfully built right-hander to follow Murray. Ortiz pitched aggressively, showing good feel for both his 93-95 fastball and his 82-84 slider. He has easy arm strength and speed, and wasn't afraid to throw his slider, going right after hitters.
• Luke Bonfield had two very hard hit balls in Game 1, the first of which as a double he stroked up the middle off of an Ortiz' slider. He displayed very good bat speed and the ability to square up the ball consistently hard during batting practice as well.
• The defensive play of the day was made by shortstop Max George of the Navy squad. On a hard hit ball, he made a nice diving stab of a ball deep in the hole, snapped to his feet and fired a strike to first base to record the out.
• Also in Game 1, catcher Colby Fitch made a strong, accurate throw to third base to retire a would-be base-stealer.
• Foster Griffin was the highlight of Game 2. With a tall, sturdy and still-projectable frame, the 6-foot-5, 195-pound left-hander worked quickly and efficiently, showing a promising and polished three-pitch repertoire that including a 88-90 mph fastball that touched 92. He moved all of his pitches around and showed good command of the strike zone.
• Right-hander Sam Proctor also showed well in Game 2, working at 91-92 with his fastball while mixing in a promising 75-76 curveball. His arm speed on both pitches was impressive, making it easy to believe he'll be throwing harder, more consistently with a sharper version of his breaking ball in the near future.
• Right handed pitchers Cameron Varga and Spencer Adams caused for a repeat of Game 1 by coming out firing in Game 3. Varga took the mound first, working at 93-95 with a sharp 79-83 mph slider. At 6-foot-3, 205-pounds, Varga is built like a prototypical workhorse.
Spencer Adams was more about projection and really showed an aggressive, take-charge approach on the mound. The ultra-projectable, 6-foot-5, 180-pounder offers plenty of room for added strength, and pounded the strike zone with a 91-93 mph fastball. He also showed very good feel for his low-80s changeup and a two-plane mid-80s slider. Adams displayed very good arm speed, and his attack mode approach to pitching was just as impressive as Medeiros earlier in the day.
• Jeff Harding, Jr. followed Varga for the Gold squad in Game 3, and while he doesn't have the same size at 5-foot-11, 196 pounds, he made up for his lack of size in his fearless approach and power fastball. He sat at 92 mph, peaking at 93, and went right after hitters up and in.
• In addition to Flaherty's booming double as noted earlier, Willie Rios also added a two-bagger in Game 3, ripping a pitch down the third base line allowing him to pull into second base standing up. Rios also threw in the 90s from the mound.
• Keven Pimentel was the last pitcher to take the mound for the Gold team, another good-sized rigthy that dialed his fastball up to 94, pitching comfortably at 91-92. Most impressive was his ability to spot his fastball on the corners, working the bottom half of the zone well to induce weak ground balls.