Edwin Jackson Is Still on the Move
Edwin Jackson was still in diapers the first time he moved.
He was born in Neu-Ulm, Germany, where his father was stationed in the United States Army. But tasks change and by the time Jackson was 1, his family had moved to Fort Polk, Louisiana. At 6, the family returned to Germany for two years.
“I explained to them that it was my job,” said Edwin Jackson Sr., who served in the military for 22 years. “It forces me to pack my bags and leave abruptly. So they were sort of prepared and expected that.
These expectations prepared young Jackson for a nomadic existence in Major League Baseball. The last stop for the 37-year-old frequent traveler? I’m trying to win a gold medal at the Olympic Games in Tokyo as a member of the US team’s reliever box.
Jackson fondly remembers his first experiences abroad: there was German ice cream that didn’t quite taste the same as in the United States, and excursions to castles. His 90-minute commute to school in Hesse from his family’s duplex-style military accommodation gave him plenty of time to do his homework.
“It was kind of a dope,” he said of his childhood. But staying in one place has never been in the cards. The family’s next stop was Columbus, Georgia, where Jackson Sr. ran the Fort Benning mess before retiring as First Class Sergeant. Columbus, a consolidated city-county along the Chattahoochee River, offered a rare glimpse of stability, as young Jackson stayed there while in high school.
After a star tour at Shaw High School, Jackson was selected by the Los Angeles Dodgers with a sixth round pick in the 2001 Major League Baseball Draft. His own tour of duty began.
When people meet Jackson, they often ask themselves the same question:
Can you name all the teams you played for in order?
“I can, but it won’t be quick,” warned Jackson, the 17-year-old MLB veteran who played for a record 14 clubs, before listing nearly half of the league’s teams. “LA, Detroit, I mean Tampa Bay!” “
The pitcher recovered quickly, delivering a perfect finish: “Tampa Bay in Detroit. Detroit to Arizona. Arizona to the White Sox. White Sox in Saint-Louis. St. Louis at DCDC in Chicago. Chicago to the Braves. The Braves to the Marlins. The Marlins in San Diego. From San Diego to Baltimore, I believe. Baltimore back at the Nationals. Nationals in Oakland. Oakland in Toronto. Toronto to Detroit.
No one in the many MLB history books can top this list of organizations. Jackson is his sport’s ultimate wanderer, a legacy he insists he was “predestined” by his upbringing.
Dusty Baker, who led Jackson with the Nationals in 2017 and served in the Marine Corp Reserve, believes Jackson’s childhood served him well.
“When you were a kid in the military you had to change, you had to meet new friends, you had to leave old friends, and then stay friends with those you just left,” Baker said. “It sets the stage for this life. “
Jackson’s great journey began with the Dodgers on September 9, 2003, his 20th birthday. A converted outfielder who was Baseball America’s No.4 prospect at the time, he beat future Hall of Famer Randy Johnson in his debut.
“That kind of catapulted him in a way that was probably unfair because he wasn’t ready for all of this,” said Angels manager Joe Maddon, who coached Jackson with the Rays and Cubs.
Despite Jackson’s hasty advance, Maddon believed he had “the next Bob Gibson” on his hands when the right-hander was distributed at Tampa Bay in 2006. Jackson would go on to form an All-Star team with Detroit in 2009, pitching a 149 -laying off without a hitting with Arizona in 2010 and winning a World Series title with St. Louis in 2011. Either way, he never quite lived up to the high expectations that followed him to his career. at major tournaments.
A career record of 107-133 and a 4.78 ERA led to six rallies and several outings as clubs “grew frustrated that they couldn’t extrapolate talent,” which Maddon said “everyone recognizes. “.
“This guy always has a golden arm,” Baker added. “I just can’t understand why he’s been on so many teams. He never caused any problems, nothing. Some guys are just kind of companions.
Raised in a relaxed family despite his father’s military work, Jackson learned to go with the flow. He saw each new destination as an opportunity to leave a positive mark and appreciated the diversity inherent in each new clubhouse and community.
“Those who can adapt can continue to evolve in life,” Jackson said. He added that those who cannot will “get stuck in quicksand”.
“Who,” he asked, “has a perfect story? “
Jackson wasn’t sure if he would accept the U.S. team’s invitation to compete in these Olympics, but his wife, Erika, got it right.
A free agent, Jackson last launched into the majors in 2019. He had thrown reliever pens and remained in shape, reaching his mid-90s with the pistol. But after receiving and rejecting just one invitation to “super, super lowball” spring training this year, he wasn’t sure he would make it again.
“Are you crazy? This is the opportunity of a lifetime,” his wife, an Air Force veteran who also grew up in the military, told him. MLB is the Olympics!
“If you don’t, you’ll regret it. “
Those words prompted Jackson to accept the offer, and he ended up describing qualifying games as “one of the funniest games I’ve had in baseball in a long time.”
But the trip to Tokyo has the potential for more than just fun. It is also an opportunity for representation.
Jackson was born overseas, comes from a multi-generational military family, and is a black baseball player at a time when this demographic is in decline. The ability to make an impact at the Olympics is not lost on Jackson, the Secretary of the Players Alliance, or his family – especially after years of sport and the military clashing over issues of racial and social justice. .
“Not only do I want to represent the country, I want to represent my fellow African Americans who play this game of baseball,” said Jackson, who grew up watching Braves stars like Andruw Jones, Fred McGriff, David Justice, Otis. Nixon and Brian Jordan. “I want to be able to influence a young African American player who has never played baseball before. They look at me and say ‘Shit, maybe I could be like him.’ “
That Jackson plays for the American team means a lot to his father.
“For me, as a parent who served my country, I think it coincides with his leaving there,” Jackson Sr. said. “He also serves his country.
Jackson said winning gold in Tokyo would be “the cream of the crop” or “the best ending ever,” but he hasn’t given up on a potential return to the majors.
Any luck he gets with a big league team should be good for him and his family. Jackson and his wife passed on their itinerant lifestyle to their own children – Exavier, 9; Élan, 7 years old; and Elijah, 3 – allowing them to see cities across the country while developing the same social skills parents had as children.
“They were soldiers,” Jackson said, recalling how coming home with his kids helped him get over his worst days on the mound, especially his first two years with the Cubs, when he lost 33 games. So with the pandemic continuing and so many moves already under their belt, Jackson will not jump on any offers.
Of course, a team should be interested. But players who recently saw Jackson pitch claim he still has major league stuff.
“He looks electric,” said Todd Frazier, another recognizable US team veteran.
Team USA manager Mike Scioscia added: “Don’t worry about what his age says. His body is like that of a 26 year old man.
Others are amazed that Jackson is still throwing at a high level after all the twists he has made.
“It tells me he’s not giving up,” said Octavio Dotel, who played for 13 teams from 1999 to 2013 and was Jackson’s predecessor as the most traveled major league. “He’s still fighting.
Some, like Maddon, attribute Jackson’s endurance to his “adaptability” and “affable” personality. “People always want to be around him in this game,” the manager said. “He never burned a bridge to the point where he was ignored.”
Others underline his determination.
“It’s tough getting into the big leagues,” said Scott Kazmir, Jackson’s teammate in Tampa Bay and Tokyo. “It’s even harder to stay there. Being able to have that persistence and go through a lot of adversity and still being able to be on the big leagues and strive to improve every day is not in everyone.
Jackson’s time with the USA team will start in earnest with a Friday game against Israel, giving him the opportunity to show what he has left. But he knows better than to plan. If teams call, so much the better. Otherwise, he can thrive in the fact that the final stage of his traveling career saw him play for a country he has traveled so well.
“I’m walking on a trail right now and I’ll come apart eventually,” Jackson said. “Whatever the division, I’ll take it without losing a step or a stride.
“I’m going to smile anyway.”
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