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Interview: Steven Jackson

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DP-Please list any college/pro statistics of importance, awards won:

SJ-I led my team last year in innings pitched and starts. Also won the championship game of the Midwest League playoffs. Finished my college career with a 19-9 record. I made the honor roll at Clemson multiple times and finished with a 3.0 GPA.

DP-Please list any major high school accolades:

SJ-I was named Mr. Baseball and Gatorade Player of the Year. I was also drafted in the 38th round by Tampa Bay.

DP-What are some of your nicknames?

SJ-Jacks, Reno, Little Jack

DP-What is your greatest high school thrill?

SJ-Getting drafted by Tampa Bay.

DP-What is your greatest thrill, or two, beyond high school?

SJ-Going to the College World Series. Pitching and getting a win against South Carolina. Winning the Midwest League Championship.

DP-Who are the three toughest hitters you faced in high school and the three toughest after high school?

SJ-In high school, Rocco Baldelli, Drew Meyer and Ross Ohlendorf; Stephen Drew, Kahlil Greene (in intrasquad) and John Jaso.

DP-Do you have any good, but clean, locker room or road trip stories?

SJ-We had a guy on our team last year that got caught text messaging a girl after he pitched. Other than that, there aren’t many clean ones to tell.

DP-Tell us what life is like living out of hotels and eating in restaurants everyday:

SJ-It is very tough. You really get an appreciation for mom’s home cooking. You usually have to eat a lot of fast food after games because it is usually late. So you can imagine that getting a good meal is tough. I’ve learned to appreciate McDonalds salads. 

DP-Do you have any superstitions?

SJ-I don’t have any superstitions, but I do like to get in a routine during the season and keep that routine.

DP-What was your toughest adjustment, in and out of baseball, after high school?

SJ-My biggest adjustment when I got to college was time management. As far as baseball goes, learning how to pitch instead of just throw. Throwing hard gets people out in high school but it doesn’t as you move up in baseball.

DP-What is the biggest crowd you’ve ever performed in front of and where?

SJ-At the College World Series we played in front of 25,000 when we played Nebraska. I didn’t pitch in that game. The biggest crowd I actually pitched in front of was when I pitched against South Carolina, at South Carolina.

DP-Tell people what draft day was like for you in high school and then again out of college:

SJ-Draft day when I was in high school was just like any other day. I knew I had a chance to be drafted but I didn’t think it would happen because I told the scouts that I didn’t want to sign. When I got the call from Tampa Bay I was really excited. When I got drafted after my junior year in college it was really kind of disappointing. I was having a pretty good year going into the draft and I was hearing that I was going to get drafted were I would have probably signed. A week or two before the draft, my arm started hurting and I ended up having to have surgery. So that really hurt my draft. Then draft day my senior year was really exciting because I knew I was going to sign and get to fulfill a dream of playing pro baseball.

DP-Talk a little bit about what made you shun pro ball out of high school for Clemson. Also, if you had it to do over again, would you?

SJ-I didn’t sign out of high school because I felt like college was the right choice for me. It was a life-long dream of mine to play for Clemson. I grew up a Clemson fan and my blood runs orange. Both my parents, brother, several cousins and other relatives have graduated from Clemson. College gave me a chance to mature and develop my baseball skills and to play for a program that every year had a good chance of winning a national championship. Although the money was a lot better out of high school I would still choose to go to college. The college experience was great for me. You can’t put a price tag on the college experience. Now that I am in pro baseball I can see that it would have been very tough for me to succeed out of high school. It also allowed me to get my degree, so I have something to fall back on if baseball doesn’t work out…I also met my future wife, Lindsay, while at Clemson.

DP-For those out there who have never participated in Omaha, tell us what that experience is like:

SJ-Omaha was an experience that is hard to describe. It was a dream come true.

DP-What do you feel like you need to do better to get to the Big Leagues?

SJ-I need to get my slider more consistent. I also need to consistently pound the lower part of the strike zone.

DP-Who has made the greatest impression on you as a person and why?

SJ-My dad. He has been a great role model and always told me to “Remember who I was” and that has stuck with me.

DP-Who has made the greatest impression on you as a baseball player and why?

SJ-My little league coach, Rick Coakley, taught me the correct way to play the game at a young age and really help me develop as a player. Also Stan Kowalski made a great impression on me. He taught me how to pitch. Jack Leggett and Kevin O’Sullivan (my coaches at Clemson) also made a great impression on me. They helped me mature as a person and as a player.

DP-What has been the biggest difference between professional baseball and the college ranks?

SJ-The grind of playing every day. You have very few days off. You have to learn how to stay focused. It is a marathon not a sprint.

DP-Who is your favorite athlete (non-baseball)?

SJ-Jim Kelly was my favorite athlete growing up. Also all the pro bass fishermen that came on TV every Saturday morning. I didn’t miss many Saturday morning fishing shows growing up.

DP-Who is your favorite MLB pitcher and position player and why?

SJ-Roger Clemens because of how he continues to dominate baseball after 23 years. Cal Ripken Jr. because of how he played the game.

DP-Who is your favorite MLB team?

SJ-Growing up the Braves. Now the Diamondbacks.

DP-What is your favorite sport to play other than baseball?

SJ-Golf. I am learning so it is tough. I love to hunt and fish so that is what I do when I am not playing baseball. I love to duck hunt so when duck season is in that is all I do.

DP-What is your favorite sport to watch other than baseball?

SJ-Football

DP-What goals do you have for yourself in and out of baseball?

SJ-To make it to the Big Leagues. Also, to just be successful in life.

DP-If you could have dinner with three people in history, who would they be and why?

SJ-Phil Robertson because he is the legend of duck hunting. I would love here some of his stories. Wyatt Earp, I would love to here his stories and to see how life was like back I his day. Nolan Ryan because he is the greatest pitcher, in my mind, ever.

DP-Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

SJ-Hopefully in the Big Leagues. 

DP-What are your thoughts on what Diamond Prospects can do for kids in South Carolina versus when you came through as a prep?

SJ-Help get kids more exposure so more kids from South Carolina can get a chance to play baseball after high school.

DP-Give a high school player who is reading this article one piece of advice.

SJ-Work hard and what ever you do in life don’t have any regrets. Thanks. Go Tigers!

DP-Steven, Thanks for doing this while you are in spring training, good luck to you in 2006, we’ll be following you.