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Jackson Fondly Remembers La Crosse

By Gregg Hoffmann:

Brett Jackson honed his baseball and musical skills as a La Crosse Logger in 2007. Both have come in handy this spring training.

On the day of the interview for this story, Jackson and his teammates with 30 or fewer games in the big leagues participated in a Cubs Idol audition. The Cubs’ first round pick in 2009 did well, and gave partial credit to a rain delay during that 2007 season in which he and other Loggers led the crowd in “YMCA.”

“I remember that night well,” Jackson said during an interview between his tryout for Idol and the Cubs workout at HoHoKam on March 9. “It was a lot of fun. The crowd was great. It was when I became comfortable with my dancing skills, and then look out.

“I think I did well today in the audition. Kevin Millar didn’t like my song selection (Let’s Give Them Something To Talk About), but the other judges loved it.”

That sense of humor, and natural entertainment instincts, made Jackson stand out during his season with the Loggers, even though his team had an underachieving performance.

“We had talent on that team, despite what our record ended up as,” the 21-year-old Jackson said. “It was a close knit group. I still keep in touch with Justin Toole, Cole White and others from that team.”

Jackson’s performance on the Loggers also sent him back to UC-Berkeley with a lot of confidence. He performed well in college, played a summer in the Cape Cod League and got on the big league radar screen, to the point where the Cubs took him as their No. 1 pick in the 2009 draft.

“I had come off a rough freshman season at Berkeley,” Jackson said. “But, playing in the Northwoods League, with the wood bats, and playing every day, and the travel, helped me get my confidence and get a better feel for what the minors would be like. The Cape helped too, but that summer in the Northwoods League was a turning point for me and helped me perform to where I could get noticed and drafted.”

Jackson batted .303 with 91 runs scored, 25 doubles, 11 triples, 12 homers and 85 rbi in three seasons at Berkeley. He established himself as a fleet, good fielding outfielder.

The Cubs took him No. 1, and he averaged .318 in 53 games split among Mesa in the Rookie League, Boise in Single A and Peoria in Single A. He finished the 2009 season with a nine-game hitting streak. Baseball America  named him the third best prospect in the Northwest League after the 2009 season.

That same publication named him the second best Cubs’ prospect, behind only shortstop Starlin Castro, to start the 2010 season.

All that earned him an invitation to the Cubs’ big league camp this spring. He won’t stick there, and he knows it. But, at the time of the interview for this story, he was hitting 1.000 with one hit and a slugging percentage of 3.000.

“The kid in me was a little overwhelmed when I first reported,” Jackson said. “Just to be in the same clubhouse and on the same field with Derrek Lee, Soto, Dempster and these other guys. As time goes on though, you get to know them more as teammates and regular people.

“It’s a great opportunity to learn from these guys, how they go about their business and handle the overall things that come with being a big leaguer. I just want to learn as much as I can and work as hard as I can here, and wherever I go for the season.”

Jackson likely will start at High A or Double AA, and could end up in Triple A by the end of the season. The Cubs are high on his skills and work ethic. You hear a lot of chatter about 2012 for him to crack the big league team. The Cubs outfield of the future often includes Jackson and Tyler Colvin, who made his major league debut last season.

“I’ve never set goals and said where I have to be by a certain time,” Jackson said. “Yeah, I think that timetable is feasible though. All I can do is play as hard as I can and improve as much as I can.”

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Gregg Hoffmann is a veteran journalism who publishes www.midwestdiamondreport.com, www.oldschoolcollectibles.com and www.driftlessimagesinpixelsandprose.com. He writes for the Loggers web site during the season and does a segment on the Talkin Baseball radion show weekly. He filed this story from the Cubs’ spring training camp in Arizona.