Speedy shortstop Taylor Jackson thrives for Kenwood

SHARE Speedy shortstop Taylor Jackson thrives for Kenwood
SHARE Speedy shortstop Taylor Jackson thrives for Kenwood

A year ago the veteran Kenwood baseball coach Bill Hanselman was not even sure who Taylor Jackson was. He saw the eager young prospect turn up for the first supervised workouts and he was immediately intrigued.

“I never saw him play before he came here, and even though he was just a freshman, I saw he had the skill level to play up [at the varsity],” Hanselman said. “The first game of the season, it was really cold, and I had him batting ninth in the order. Within the next couple of games, we moved him to fifth and and he was there the rest of the year.”

Jackson made an auspicious debut in Public League baseball, hitting .442 with eight doubles, two triples and 26 runs batted in for the Broncos and playing centerfield and second base. He is only getting better. The 5-8, 165-pound Jackson is one of the top prospects in the city’s class of 2017. In his first nine games this season, Jackson is hitting .400, slugging .533 and has yet to strike out.

He is explosive between the bases. At an elite showcase for the state’s top underclassmen organized by Prep Baseball Report last fall, Jackson posted the fastest time in the 60, the benchmark baseball scouts rely on.

Baseball is Jackson’s only sport and he trains year round to master each aspect of the game. He traces his success to his offseason workout regimen. “In the winter and the summer, I go to the [hitting] cages, with my high school, or traveling team, and and I put in the time,” Jackson said.

“Hitting is probably one of the hardest things about the game,” he said. “You have to account for the different speeds of the pitches, and timing is really important. I have a good eye for the ball, a high IQ for the game and with the intensity I bring to the game, that’s how I’ve done well so far.”

Now Jackson is undergoing another transition in making the shift to playing shortstop, probably the toughest defensive position to master. He is quick learner, indicative of a kind of a fearless streak he has about him. “When I get in between the lines, I’m not afraid of anything,” he said. “I just go out there and put in my best effort.”

Jackson was drawn to baseball as a three-year old. “I was playing catch in the park with my father, and I told him that’s what I wanted to do,” he said.

While baseball doesn’t get the same attention that basketball and football get in the city, Jackson remains enthusiastic. “It’s funny sometimes that baseball is the last option, compared to basketball or football,” he said. “Students and teachers come out to our games and watch us play and they get fascinated.”

Jackson is a crucial part of that process. He also loves the chance of playing against elite national competition playing for the White Sox Ace, one of the travel teams organized by the White Sox to offer top city prospects a chance to play against different levels of competition.

Getting exposed to different players and styles of play has been crucial to his development. “You have to learn how to adjust in those situations,” he said. “You’re seeing pitchers throwing 90 [miles per hour] consistently and a lot of breaking balls thrown at you, so you have to make those adjustments.”

His high school coach is thrilled to anchor his program around him. “Taylor has exceptional hand eye coordination and he’s a hard worker,” Hanselman said. “He plays year round and maintains top grades.

“He’s an all-around good kid.”

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