On diamond, Jackson shines Switch hitter: Second-team All-Metro football player Tony Jackson has helped Wilde Lake's baseball team to its best start in years.

April 17, 1996|By Rick Belz | Rick Belz,SUN STAFF

Football is the king of sports at Wilde Lake, winner of four state and 13 county football titles. Maybe that's why most people think only of football when Tony Jackson's name is mentioned.

But Jackson also plays baseball. In fact, he may be a better baseball player than football player, even though the junior was a second-team All-Metro defensive back last fall.

Through Wilde Lake's first four games, the 6-foot-2, 205-pound outfielder is 6-for-10 with three home runs, a triple and 10 RBIs. He has two stolen bases.

His first time up this season, against North Carroll, he homered on the first pitch. His second at-bat he hit a ball that was caught at the outfield fence. He was intentionally walked his third time up. And in his fourth at-bat he hit a three-run homer.

He also homered in an 11-10 loss to defending state champion Glenelg.

Wilde Lake, 5-16 last season, already is 2-2, and despite its youth is off to its best start in many seasons. Expectations for at least a .500 record are soaring under first-year coach Don Storr.

There hasn't been this much excitement surrounding Wilde Lake baseball since the late 1970s when Jim Traber played there. Traber, a power-hitting first baseman, eventually landed with the Baltimore Orioles.

"I don't think even [Jackson] knows how much natural talent he has," said Paul Donovan, a coach for the Columbia Reds baseball program. "He could be a pro prospect. He has a lot of options, because Division I college football coaches will be after him. But once the baseball draft is over in June, baseball scouts will be after him too."

His extraordinary bat speed is the first thing one notices.

"You can't teach those quick hands," Donovan said.

Then there's his size, speed and strength -- all above average. He bench-presses 315 pounds.

Storr praises Jackson's drive, and willingness to work hard.

"He utilizes his time well in practice. I'm really glad that we'll have him for another season," Storr said.

Jackson batted .313 last high school season, but had a sensational summer for the Columbia Reds 15-16 team, batting .445 with seven home runs in 33 games.

"The Reds expected a lot from you," Jackson said. "It was a lot of fun, but there was no lagging."

The Reds won the Metro League for the first time, and Jackson led the team in nearly all offensive categories.

The summer before that, Jackson played for the Elkridge Hurricanes, after the Reds told him that he might not play much for them. Jackson batted .510 for Elkridge, which posted a 3-30 record.

Jackson showed the Reds what they were missing when he went 4-for-4, hit two home runs and drove in seven runs against them in the final game of the season, a 12-4 Hurricanes victory. He also pitched four shutout innings that game.

Jackson said he needs to improve his patience at the plate and his throws from the outfield.

Jackson's father, Rich, is the assistant football coach and varsity wrestling coach for Wilde Lake. He played football and wrestled for Morgan State, and baseball was one of the three sports he participated in at City College.

"He has a good eye, and is a tough hitter with two strikes when he relaxes and keeps his head down on the ball," the elder Jackson said of his son. "He's hard on himself and thinks he should get a hit every time up, and I have to remind him that's not realistic."

Pub Date: 4/17/96

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