BY JOEL SENSENIG | MIRROR SPORTS — One could forgive Bowling Green junior Kyle Jackson if he went into the 2019 baseball season a bit tentative after coming off a shoulder injury suffered in the football season.
But then one wouldn’t really know Kyle Jackson. The kid who’s wanted to play in the major leagues since he was 7 years old went on to lead the Northern Lakes League in hitting with a .536 batting average, helping lead the Bobcats to a 23-5 overall record (11-3 NLL), a league championship, an appearance in the regional semifinals and a No. 3 state ranking in Division II.
For his efforts, Jackson was selected as The Mirror’s Baseball Player of the Year for the 2019 campaign.
BG coach Jim Beaverson, in his second year leading the team, was also named as this publication’s baseball coach of the year.
After rehabbing his throwing shoulder – he tore his labrum and fractured his humerus in football – as best he could in the few months of the offseason, the Bobcats helped take some of the pressure off the shortstop by moving him to first base for his junior season.
The move paid off, as Jackson posted a gaudy stat line of 45 hits, 10 doubles, a triple, a home run, 18 walks, 30 runs, 27 RBI, 13 stolen bases, a .606 OBP and a .714 slugging percentage.
All he did was finish as the NLL player of the year, first-team All-Ohio, first-team All-District and first-team All-NLL.
Beaverson said the rehab process slowed things up for Jackson, but the junior was up for the challenge.
“For him to come back as quick as he did and be a real contributor was a pretty remarkable thing,” Beaverson said, noting the comeback shows the desire the young man has to play the sport he loves.
“It was definitely humbling,” Jackson said of the injury. “It set me way back and I knew I had to work way harder and really focus on my hitting because I knew I wasn’t going to be able to throw as far. I just knew I had to help out the team as much as possible – and they helped me out just as much as I helped them.
“All of my coaches were really on board with my rehab and my teammates were always there for me when I had to do my bands and workouts to help me get to where I am now.”
For Jackson, being injured wasn’t going to be something that got in the way of his favorite sport.
“I love baseball as much as I love to breathe, eat, sleep, anything,” he said. “It’s my passion and what I want to do with the rest of my life. I wanted to be Grady Sizemore when I was a kid. It’s becoming closer to becoming a reality, but I need to keep my head level.”
Beaverson said Jackson has a maturity level beyond his years as a hitter.
“He’s just a pure hitter,” his coach said. “He has great timing, recognizes pitches out of pitchers’ hands early, can go the opposite way – which at the high school level is a big achievement. They all want to pull the ball.”
Jackson took the offseason seriously, hitting almost every day and hitting the weight room to get his body prepared for the grind of the baseball season.
He sees himself as one of many leaders on the team.
“Everyone motivates everyone, but I always try to tell everyone that no matter how the game’s going, no matter what the score is, keep the pressure on – if we’re up by 10, keep pushing. If we’re down, we’re not going to give up. That’s how I always play, never quit.”
Jackson said every member of the team and coaching staff played a huge role in the team’s chemistry that helped it have so much success this season.
“From freshmen to seniors, every single player was equally important and it was just a great team effort.”
For his senior season, Jackson wants to keep his focus on playing the best ball he can and helping his team in any way possible.
Still, he has his goal set for the end of his high school career.
“Hopefully it ends up with me being drafted at the end of my senior year,” he said. “I treat it like, ‘Let’s get the job done. Let’s play the best we can and work hard both on and off the field.’”
Jackson said Beaverson is not an easy coach to play for, but that’s what makes him such a valuable mentor.
“He’s definitely a tough coach, but that’s the best thing about him. He’s not going to let you slack off, he’s not going to let you take the easy route. We all love him – it’s a love-hate relationship. He’s going to push you, but it’s always for the best.”
Beaverson said Jackson has an unmatched desire to win, which tends to rub off on his teammates.
“He tries to take advantage of any hole or weakness he sees in the defense,” he said. “All the guys on the squad do look up to him just because of his pure athletic talents. They recognize what a great baseball player he actually is.”
Beaverson said Jackson is a one-of-a-kind talent, putting him up there with the best of the best in the area, including Central Catholic graduate Jase Bowen, recently drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates.
“I would take Kyle Jackson over Jase Bowen any day,” Beaverson said. “That’s how good of a player he is.”
Jackson thanked his family and friends for their support this season and throughout his playing career.
“I could not be where I am with my injury and everything if it wasn’t for them,” he said.