By Heath Walley
On average, you could probably say that a baseball player gets his first true taste of real playing time on the high school baseball field around his sophomore year . . . at best.
That’s not the case with Stringer’s Jackson Parker. In fact, he is so on top of his game that he has done something that is really not heard of much.
The now 14-year-old first stepped his spikes onto the Stringer Red Devils baseball field as a seventh grade varsity starter last year and earned All-District honors. As an eighth grader this past season, Jackson helped lead the Red Devils to the MHSAA 1A South State series. In doing so, the young baseball oddity again garnered All-District honors and added to that by being named a 2nd Team All-State utility player.
Jackson began playing baseball at around 4-years-old, and it stuck. It cemented really well, you could say. Following his older brother, Jake, who also is advanced in baseball and plays a couple years ahead on the Red Devils’ squad, Jackson took his brother’s lead at an early age and ran with it. The two would compete and challenge one another at home and in the local youth leagues. As many brothers do, they pushed one another to the extreme, especially while playing in the Laurel Youth League and a number of youth World Series events, and it has made Jackson the player he is today, he claims.
“I started out playing with my brother (Jake) when I was about 4-years-old, and he was around six. It became a game we loved, and it is something we still love to compete at now,” Jackson said. “I’m just used to being around it; it’s something I’ve done all my life. We usually try to hit every day. When we don’t do that, we like to fish and turkey hunt, and stuff like that. Jake is a big part of my life, even though we argue a lot. He’s always the first one to the plate after I hit a homerun.”
The homeruns Jackson has blasted throughout his baseball career, from youth league to now, are something that makes him stand out; not to mention a fairly strong arm. His father, Stacy, estimates the young bomber, who has a sweet Ken Griffey-esk type swing, to have hit over 125 dingers throughout his youth league career. Several of those homeruns came during three Dixie Youth World Series and two AAA World Series outings Jackson competed in and was a part of winning teams.
“The best we can figure is he hit around 125 homeruns over his youth career. He hit his first homerun at 9-years-old,” said his father. “And, not many kids are ever able to play at the World Series level. To play in the ones he has is something special, and we have been very fortunate with his baseball career.”
The homeruns and advanced play on the baseball field didn’t stop there. During his first venture onto the varsity baseball scene as a seventh grader, Jackson lifted two homeruns, while grabbing a .312 batting average for the season. During his second season on the high school diamond as an eighth grader, he hit three homeruns, batted .420, with 42 hits, 41 RBIs, and 10 doubles. He only struck out nine times and had a .528 on base percentage and a .610 slugging percentage. In addition to his strength at the plate and playing left field, Jackson also earned a 5-3 record on the pitching mound with two saves. He fanned 79 hitters through 57 innings pitched, only walked 24, and held on to a 2.89 ERA.
So, how does a baseball player that is essentially still a kid growing into a young man who is already near a man on the baseball field feel about stepping up and playing against older guys?
“It really didn’t bother me, because I had played with my older brother Jake all my life. I had always played with older people, and it really didn’t effect me or bother me too much to play with the older guys,” he said.
Stringer head baseball coach Wade Weathers has been around a lot of baseball in his life, and he knows Jackson is a different baseball specimen. He feels that if the youngster continues to work hard, baseball could take him to very special places.
“He’s an extremely talented player, and he really helps our team with his bat and his arm. He batted in the middle of our order all year and had a batting average above .400, and he also became one of our district and playoff starters on the mound,” Weathers said. “He is mature beyond his years athletically, and it’s extremely rare to see someone so young be as talented and have as much success as he has had. His future is as bright as he wants it to be. He has natural talent that not many people have. If he stays in the weight room and starts to realize how beneficial it is, then there is no telling how good he will end up being.”
Jackson, along with his brother, Jake, are currently spending much of their summer working out, preparing for the upcoming Red Devils football season, and of course, are on the baseball field playing Elite League travel baseball with the Mississippi Stars.
Jackson will “officially” debut on the varsity baseball field as a true “high schooler” next season as a ninth grader.