by Russell Cooks
Playing catcher on the baseball team is regarded as the toughest position on the field. It is the ultimate leadership position. It is the catcher who gives the pitcher the signs on how to pitch to each batter. It is the catcher who normally goes out to settle the pitcher down if the pitcher gets rattled. Well, there are three catchers in the Jackson household. Can you imagine one household having such a rich baseball gene pool? Sandy Creek High School senior Cole Jackson is the latest of the Jackson catching dynasty, and he is really good.
Andrew Jackson, Cole’s father, started playing baseball around the age of 10 or 11-years-old. Andrew describes his journey by saying, “I had a cousin who played travel ball for P.A.L (The Detroit Police Athletic league). I used to travel with him and my uncle around the city and fell in love with the game. My cousin was a catcher as well.
“I started playing for the City of Oak Park Recreation League. My skill level developed enough through the years to be named a started on varsity my tenth grade year. I played catcher primarily, however I could also be found at third or in right field. I knew about travel baseball back then, but our family didn’t have the resources for that expense. I stopped playing my senior to work.”
The foundation of the success in the Jackson household is built on education. Mr. Jackson has BA from Morehouse College and a Master’s Degree from Troy University. Regina Jackson has a BA from Clark Atlanta University, a Master’s in Education from the University of West Georgia, and a Doctorate in Education from Argosy University.
They have used their education to position their sons for opportunities that they did not have while growing up. As the story of success that Jared and Cole have both had at Sandy Creek and throughout their baseball careers unfolds, you clearly see the commitment of time, energy, and money that Jacksons have sown into boys.
Jared Jackson, the Second Coming
When asked when did he recognize the baseball gift in Jared, Cole’s older brother, Andrew replies, “Early on, I was able to see that Jared had a high aptitude of leadership. He exhibited these leadership qualities among his peers. From there, we invested in travel ball, personal catching training, and hitting lessons. He grew fast and stood out among his age group. We were fortunate to have been invited to play at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY. He shined at the plate (hitting a grand slam), as well as in the field.”
The development of both their sons was truly a family affair. Andrew says, “All four of us at one time or another worked to make them better. We started with hitting plastics golf balls with broom handles, to drawing triangles in the dirt, to putting a bucket on second base and throwing the ball into the bucket. There were several more practice aides, too many to list. Then things turned more serious. I had to step back and let the trained professionals take over. Those who also saw the potential in them and were trained to develop players. We participated in countless showcases and special workouts. All of these tools/programs have contributed in their development.”
When asked when she fell in love with baseball, Regina says, “I can definitely say, I didn’t choose baseball, baseball chose me. I wasn’t into sports. In fact, I’d never even watched baseball prior to Jared playing tee ball. Initially, I wanted to learn the game so that I’d be able to contribute to the ‘after game’ conversations. Soon after, I was offering advice on what they should have done differently and offering suggestions for improvement and practice drills. When Jared was 11 and Cole was 9, they got involved with travel baseball. It went from a merely an activity to allow Jared and Cole to socialize with peers and get exercise to a huge part of my life.
“With two sons playing during spring, summer and fall, and on different teams most of the time, it’s been extremely hectic, but I wouldn’t change it for anything. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed watching both Jared and Cole grow and excel at something they love. I must admit, I am anticipating some separation anxiety when Cole graduates from Sandy Creek.”
Asked to give his baseball history, Jared says, “We could be here all day, but I’ll give you the short version. I started playing travel baseball when I was 11-years-old. By 14, playing for Home Plate simultaneously, I started on the Sandy Creek baseball team my Freshman year in the outfield. Coach Cooper told me that, because I could hit, they would find a place on the field for me. That year I hit .400. Sophomore and Junior year I believe I made the Fayette All-County runner up and second team, where I played infield and played catcher the majority of my time. My senior year was definitely my breakout season. Up until then I had hit two home runs, both in my sophomore season, but I hit seven that year out of the leadoff spot.”
Playing with his younger brother was a highlight. “It felt great. For most of our time on the team together, I batted leadoff, and he batted cleanup. Most of his RBIs were with me on third base. The years of the two of us in the cage for hours and hours showed when we had the chemistry no one else did on the field. It would be wrong to not recognize the other guys on my team that made great contributions like Anthony Dodd, who is now playing at Morehouse College, and Trevin Bolden, who now plays at Southern Union. There were many more guys that I could mention, but we’d be here all day.
“I was committed to North Carolina Central University for a few months, but on signing day I signed at Gordon State College. Things didn’t work out there. My sophomore year of college has been spent watching baseball from the outside in. This is the first year that I haven’t played since I was three-years-old, this is an experience that I’ve never truly felt before. I can honestly say I wake up every morning with a piece of me missing. Baseball is one of those things that has a lifestyle of its own. There’s nothing like the running after you’ve gotten in some sort of trouble, late night practices, or a late game at bat with the game on the line. Those are feelings the average person doesn’t get to feel. Now I truly feel like an average person. I will definitely be trying out in the fall.”
True to the educational foundation that his parents have built, when asked what he was doing to prepare for baseball now, Jared says, “Right now, I am focused on my classes. After finishing up a successful year of school, I will get back down to Fayetteville and get back to work on my baseball skills. I’m ready to go now. I don’t know what the future holds, but I’m going to do my best to make sure that next fall I’m on someone’s field.”
Cole Jackson, the Next Level
“Cole had the benefit of having a really good brother who never gave him credit. Cole was the runt of the neighborhood for a while. Baseball was and still is big in our community, and all of the boys constantly competed. This was a blessing and curse because Cole constantly tried to keep up to show he was as good or better,” says Andre. “Cole’s development was truly a community effort. He was harassed by Robert, Trevin, and Jared. These boys truly helped get to a level that has contributed to where he is today. We were also blessed with great coaching and teams, the Diamond Dogs, Bulls Baseball, Newnan Coweta Pony League, Myers Home Plate, too many teams and coaches to list. We’ve made some lifelong friends.”
Cole definitely isn’t the runt of the neighborhood anymore. The Georgia State University Baseball signee and probable Major League Baseball draftee is now 6’ 2” tall and weighs 220 pounds. Just for comparison sake, the New York Mets Hall of Fame catcher Mike Piazza was 6’ 3” and 215 pounds.
Andrew knows his son’s greatest attributes. “Size, strength, skill, and exposure. Cole has been in the national spot light since he was 15. He has been ranked nationally in his age group for the same period. The consensus in our circle is that Cole has what it takes to get to the next level. Everyone who has come in contact with Cole has been exposed to his charisma, smile, and good nature. He is truly a big nice guy who will truck you at the plate, then pick you up to ensure you are all right.”
Family helped put Cole behind the plate from the start. “When I first started playing, my dad was coaching and everybody was afraid to get back there behind the plate,” remembers Cole. “He threw me back and there and it felt natural so I just continued to stick with it and get better.
“Me and my father worked day and night trying to achieve the goals we set when I first started playing baseball. Not a day goes by where we don’t do something baseball related. He’s always on the sidelines pushing me to do my best. Whether that be in the classroom or on the diamond he is my number one fan, and I know he’ll always be there when I need anything.”
His brother has also had a big impact.
“Jared has always been one of my biggest role models and one of the most influential people in my baseball career. Growing up seeing him play, I used to want to be in every position he was in. We always compete in everything we do together, and we push each other to get better each and every day,“ says Cole.
Cole hasn’t shied away from trying to fill his brother’s big shoes.
“When I first got to Sandy Creek in the ninth grade, I knew in my head I had a lot to live up to because my brother started on varsity his ninth grade year, and the coaching staff was expecting me to do the same. I had always played catcher, but my secondary position was third base. A spot opened up, and they needed me to fill it and the rest was history.”
Yes, both the Jackson brothers started for four years at Sandy Creek. What an awesome journey it has been for the entire Jackson Family.
All the hard work and sacrifice has definitely paid off. In 2015, Cole batted .400 and had 15 doubles. So far this season, Cole is batting .667, and he also thrown out 7-of-10 base runners who have tried to steal on him.
Cole is excited about the Patriots’ chances for a big season.
“Sandy Creek should be an above .500 team. I feel we have possess the talent to come in the top three teams in our region. The future of Sandy Creek looks great talent-wise. If everyone keeps developing and working hard, the program will continue to thrive and be successful.”
There is a saying, “It takes a village to raise a child.” When asked who makes up his village, Cole replied, “My mom, my dad, my brother, my coaches, my teammates, my classmates, and everybody who said I couldn’t do it and I wouldn’t make it.”
There’s no one left saying Cole Jackson can’t do it anymore.