A much busier game schedule and an increased workload are challenges that all amateur players must overcome on their paths to professional prowess. But though most see them as hurdles and part of the learning curve in their development, Everett shortstop Drew Jackson sees them as an opportunity.
And so far, having compiled a Northwest League-best .395 batting average through his first 39 professional games, it appears he's taking full advantage.
"You kind of stay locked in," said Jackson. "Even when you leave the field, you're only gone for 12 hours or so to sleep and then you're right back there and you're mind-set is back out on the field. It's just months of staying in that 'locked in' mentality, which I think definitely helps the consistency."
Since being selected by the Seattle Mariners in the fifth round of the June Draft, Jackson has been a model of consistency. Not only does he lead the league in average, he's also tops with 34 stolen bases and 47 runs scored through Aug. 12.
"I just want to take it pitch by pitch and try to remain consistent at the plate. You never want to get too high or too low based on the results," Jackson said. "Playing every day, it goes by very fast, but it's pretty cool seeing the numbers go up like that."
Jackson's numbers have come a long way in the last calendar year. He hit .320 and was All-Pac-12 Honorable Mention as a junior at Stanford in 2015. Prior to that, the 22-year-old's best mark at the plate was a .207 average in 2013. He also combined for just 13 stolen bases in three collegiate seasons.
"I've just become a lot more aggressive overall as a ballplayer, and I've started to figure out the kind of player I am," Jackson said. "I worked every day harder and harder in the batting cage and just tried to get better in every area of the game."
For Jackson, who grew accustomed to three or four games per week at the collegiate level, Everett's hectic schedule of 51 games in 55 days to date has provided a sense of comfort.
"Just being able to play every day and make adjustments on the go has been huge," said Jackson. "It's not something that I've really been able to experience in the past."
But it's not as if there have been many adjustments for Jackson to make in his first professional season. The 6-foot-2 shortstop has recorded a hit in 33 of his 39 games, including 18 games with at least two hits and seven with three or more.
"You want to get a hit every day, and once you get that first hit early in the game, it kind of relaxes you for your next few times to the plate," said Jackson regarding his multi-hit contributions. "I try to stay within myself and stay consistent."
Jackson has notched a hit in each of his past 17 games dating back to July 19. During that stretch he's posted a .529 batting average (36-for-68) with 28 runs scored. For his efforts, he got to serve as starting shortstop for the NWL All-Star team.
That hasn't been the only honor Jackson has received of late. He was also named NWL Player of the Week for the week ending on Aug. 9. And while the excitement around him continues to grow, Jackson remains focused on seizing the moment.
"I don't really think about that. I just go out there and try to play," said Jackson. "It's really an amazing opportunity to be out here playing baseball at this level, and I just hope to keep getting even higher."
Dansby debuts: Dansby Swanson, the first overall pick in the 2015 Draft, made his professional debut Wednesday for the Hillsboro Hops against the Vancouver Canadians. He ended the day hitless (0-for-2) with a pair of strikeouts but did draw a walk and scored in Hillsboro's 3-2 victory.
Duncan proud: Though Hillsboro punched its ticket to the postseason last month with a first-half division crown, Hops manager Shelley Duncan says there's been no letdown among his players as the regular season reaches the final stages. "It doesn't change the mind-set of the day-to-day work the players do, the way we go about trying to win a baseball game," said the rookie skipper. "But to have that feeling in the clubhouse that we're in the playoffs, it takes a lot off people's shoulders, especially when it's going to come down to the stretch."
Homering Hinojosa: Salem-Keizer shortstop C.J. Hinojosa started the week with one home run this season and now has four. Hinojosa homered in three consecutive games from Aug. 10-12 while compiling a .571 average over his last five games (12-for-21).
Road warriors: Home may be where the heart is, but right now for Eugene, the road is where the wins are. The Emeralds have won three consecutive games away from P.K. Park, improving to 6-2 on the road in the second half. That total is already one road win more than Eugene had the entire first half (5-13).