An Interview with Justin Jackson

Tuesday, May 13 2008 @ 08:28 AM EDT

Contributed by: Gerry

Justin Jackson was a supplemental first round selection of the Blue Jays in the 2007 draft.  Jackson played in the Gulf Coast League in 2007 and is now a member of the Lansing Lugnuts.  Jackson has made a good start to the 2008 season and is playing well for a 19 year old.  Recently Batters Box talked with Jackson in Lansing.

BB:  Coming up to the draft last year did you know the Jays were the team after you?

JJ:  There were a lot of different teams on me but the Jays showed a special interest and I am really excited to be with the Blue Jays and it has been a great situation.

BB:  You had already committed to college, was there a lot of thought about going pro or were you already committed?

JJ:  There was definitely a lot of thought went into it and a lot before the draft which made my decision easier leading up to the draft.  I made a good decision and I am very excited about what happened.

BB:  What was it like for an 18 year old to move away from home and essentially get a full time job and in the GCL too?

JJ:  It's definitely a tough adjustment but life is about learning and there was a lot of learning going on last summer, and a lot of good things happened that's helping me right now.  A lot of the things we did  and got out of the way made it easier for this year.

BB:  Was there a big difference between playing in the GCL and playing your high school ball?

JJ:  Yeah it's a big difference, you figure out now that this is a job and you take more pride into it now because you are doing it for a living now.  That was the biggest thing and learning a routine and things like that will incorporate into how you do because a lot of different things are involved in playing pro ball and it is different than playing amateur ball.

BB:  Did you see much of a difference between the pitchers in the GCL and in amateur baseball?

JJ:  In amateur baseball you see a good pitcher here and there but once you step into the pro circle it's going to be a good pitcher, the best of the best, everyday and that's a big difference.

BB:  Did you learn a lot in the instructional league last fall or do you learn by going through the grind of a season?

JJ:  Instructional league was really good, there was a lot of one on one instruction and I learned a lot of things about myself down there and I learned a lot of things that helped me in the off-season working and getting prepared for this season.  Definitely going through that half season helped me with a lot of different things pertaining to baseball on the field and off the field.  This whole last six months has been a big learning curve and it has been really exciting and a lot of tough times and a lot of hard times also.

BB:  I believe you added some weight in the off-season?

JJ:  I put on 12-15 pounds, I decided to go and dedicate myself to the weight room because I knew that would help me this season.  The Jays gave me a program and I stuck to the program and tried to do a little extra too.  I tried to build up that extra strength and agility and I can feel it paying off for me.

BB:  Did you have to get a personal trainer to help you out?

JJ:  I had a buddy who is training to be a personal trainer and we worked out just about every day together.

BB:  In spring training this year you got to spend some time with the big leaguers, what was that like?

JJ:  That was awesome, the big league guys, McDonald and Eckstein especially, worked a lot with me at shortstop, they thought me a lot of things, showed me some good work habits and they teach you the right way to go about the game because they have been doing it for a long time.  It was really special to get out there and get that opportunity.

BB:  Did you get into a few big league games?

JJ:  Yes, I got into I believe three and it was a lot of fun.

BB:  Did you face any big league pitchers?

JJ:  I faced Juan Rincon and a couple other guys.  It was really cool because less than a year before I was playing high school baseball and all of a sudden I am playing against some of the best players in the world.  It was a really good experience that thought me a lot and let me know it can be done one day and it gave me more to work for.

BB:  Coming into 2008 were there some goals you had?

JJ:  This year I just wanted to continue to play solid baseball and go about it the right way.  The numbers will be there if I play team baseball.  We stress playing as a team and trying to win every day and I think that brings the best out of each player.

BB:  Obviously your numbers are a lot better this year than last, it that a comfort thing or are you doing something different?

JJ:  It's all of the above, I learned a lot of things and a lot more about myself and about the game.  It's all coming together a little bit and there is a lot more work to be done and we will just keep doing that and see where it goes.

BB:  In last night's game you had some nice hits and showed good pop off the bat, is that something you always had or have you got better at it?

JJ:  I have definitely gotten better at it, it was a big adjustment to the wooden bat, it's starting to come around.  I had it with the aluminum bat but now it's coming with the wood. 

BB:  Were you surprised to get sent to Lansing this season or was that one of your goals?

JJ:  That was definitely one of my goals.  I wanted to break camp with a full season team so I could get a full season under my belt this season so that's what I was working hard for it ended up working out and I am pretty happy about that.

BB:  Had you played in the cold before, was that much of an adjustment?

JJ:  I played in the cold a little back home in North Carolina but nothing like this, that was a big adjustment to start with, hopefully that weather is just about out of here.

BB:  I guess the crowds here are a big difference from the GCL?

JJ:  In the GCL my Grandpa came to some games and that was about the only fan we had.  It's a lot of fun to play before a bigger crowd and it gets you amped up to play all the time.

BB:  Do you see much difference in the pitchers this year versus last year?

JJ:  The guys this year control their stuff a lot better, they will throw different pitches in the zone on different counts and that's the biggest thing.  They are more competitive in the zone.

BB:  You had an injury and missed some time, is everything OK now?

JJ:  I just took a bad swing and had a litle tweak in my shoulder but it's fine now and I am ready to play ball.

Batters Box would like to thank Justin Jackson for taking the time to talk with us.