Showcase | Story | 8/13/2012

Playing in his own backyard

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: Perfect Game

SAN DIEGO -- Alex Jackson spent more than two weeks in Marietta, Ga., in late June through mid-July and then spent another week in the Phoenix area in late July, all while playing ball for the San Diego Show. Finally, for two days here in mid-August, he gets to perform in his own backyard.

Jackson is a highly recruited, 6-foot-2, 215-pound top catching prospect from Escondido, Calif., who is beginning his junior year at Rancho Bernardo High School. On Monday he could be found at Triton Ballpark at the University of California San Diego participating at the two-day Perfect Game National Games, one of PG's premier West Coast underclass showcase/tournament events.

"It's great to have a showcase right here in our local area and not have to drive two hours up to L.A. or leave the state," Jackson said Monday morning after taking part in a short workout session. "The weather is really good right now, and all the talent out here is really good."

The weather certainly was flawless Monday morning and the abundance of talent was evident as close to 70 top 2014 and 2015 prospects from all across the country were divided into four teams to play two games in the next two days.

Most of the prospects are from California, but the East Team features players from Florida, Georgia and Virginia and the USA Team has players from 11 states. The California and West teams' rosters are comprised exclusively of California kids. They're all here for the same reason that Jackson drove 15 minutes from his home in Escondido.

"I just come out here to be seen by all the scouts," he said. "I want to put my name out there and see what happens with them. That's just pretty much all that I try to do is get my name out there, get it flown around, and that's the main goal. If I do a good job, then that will really help a lot."

Jackson is already well-known. He made his Perfect Game debut at this event last August, and this summer has played-up with the San Diego Show at the PG WWBA 18u and 17u National Championships in Marietta and at the inaugural PG 17u World Series in Peoria, Ariz.

"I've had a really busy summer and I've had some really good experiences," Jackson said. "It's been great overall and I'm just looking forward to next summer to see what that brings me."

With all that exposure came a climb in the national rankings; he is now ranked 57th nationally in the class of 2014 and is the No. 6 catching prospect.

"Alex is a great kid with a very good work ethic who goes about his business in a professional manner. In any phase of one of our workouts he does it in a professional manner," Brian Cain, Jackson's coach at the Show, said Monday. "He's always got a smile on his face and he likes to have fun. He enjoys the game a lot."

Jackson said he had caught most of his young life but as a freshman at Rancho Bernardo he was moved to the outfield so he could be in the everyday lineup. Cain inserted him at catcher at this event last year, and has also played him the outfield and at third base.

"It's been kind of been a growing process since then, and it's gotten good," Cain said of Jackson's progression at catcher. "Like every 16-year-old he's got work to do , but it's all there: the arm, the glove and the athleticism. He can play anywhere on the field, so from a pure athletic standpoint, he's probably one of  the most gifted athletes at this event."

Jackson is pleased that he learned to play the outfield so fluently only because it opens even more doors.

"I've been catching my whole life and when I made the switch to outfield I saw that I actually did have potential out there," he said. "I would say catching is my favorite position -- I love catching, I love be backing there, I love being in the game every pitch -- but outfield is a great position, too, and where ever I can help out my team, that's what I like to do."

Jackson's ability to hit the ball has never been questioned. At the 2011 PG National Games -- where Jackson was a 2014 playing primarily with 2013s -- a PG scout noted that he had a "nice right-handed swing, good extension, some present bat speed; has power potential to develop."

He hit .400 (38-for-95) with 17 home runs, 36 RBI and 37 runs scored as a sophomore at Rancho Bernardo in the spring.

"He's amazing at the plate; he's got great pop," Cain said. "He's a natural, and the ball just jumps off his bat."

Jackson said his summer spent playing-up one or two age groups with the Show served as a valuable learning experience. They came up short in their bid for PG national championships in Marietta and Peoria, but that in no way diminished the experience.

"Playing for Brian, he's a great guy and he's there for us and he takes care of us as players," Jackson said. "We build a great bond with our team and all of our teammates get a long and we're all out there wanting to play because we love the game of baseball."

With two more years of high school still ahead of him,  the uncommitted Jackson said he's in no hurry to make a college decision. Born on Christmas Day in 1995, he won't turn 18 until mid-way through his senior year in high school, and college just isn't anything he needs to be concerned with at the moment.

"Right now I'm just going to take my time and see how it all plays out," Jackson said. "Right now I'm just relaxing out there, having fun, doing my thing and trying to take as much stress off as possible."

Like most of the other top underclass prospects living in the San Diego area, Jackson spent Sunday night at PETCO Park attending the 10th annual Perfect Game All-American Classic presented by Rawlings, a national all-star event aimed at the year's top incoming seniors. That means Jackson would be eligible to be named a PG All-American next summer.

"I like that game and it's a fun atmosphere," he said. "I had a lot of friends that were playing in it this year and last year, and it's really fun to go out there and support them and show them that there are people that watch them and want them to  succeed.

"It's just great overall going out there, having fun, watching your friends and possibly being able to play in it (next year)," he continued. "That would be a real cool thing to accomplish and I'm looking forward to that if I can."

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