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With the MLB Draft now behind us, I thought it would be worthwhile to take a look back at one of the local high school standouts who was drafted but decided to attend college instead.
Taken in Round 32 by the Texas Rangers, Cienega standout Andre Jackson was part of the new wave of talent coming out of Vail including Luis Gamez (Cienega/Atlanta Braves) and Cole Plouck (Empire/Washington Nationals).
Jackson weighed his options and remained unsigned and opted for Utah instead.
Quite a few people questioned why only six athletes from Tucson were drafted in the first place. Alex Verdugo (Sahuaro/Dodgers), Nicco Blank (Catalina/Mets) and Keith Zuniga (Nogales/Marlins) were the other three.
The fact is several high profile standouts went off the record to say they alerted local scouts not to select them if they went after the 10th round or so because they would choose college at that point.
The actual number of draftees would have been close to a dozen had there been no restrictions placed on the scouts. As with anything, the scouts are almost never right and one even tried to tell me Verdugo had a bad game when he picked up eight strikeouts in only five innings of work and that he might even drop in the draft.
That said, as Jackson responded in his answers below, the draft is not up to area scouts but rather front office personnel.
We believe, given all his options, Jackson made the right choice to attend Utah.
AllSportsTucson.com: When did you first start feel the pressure of recruiting and MLB scouts, was it your sophomore year and how did that feel?
Andre Jackson: The first time I ever had the pressure of playing in front of MLB scouts was playing for the White Sox scout team my junior year. We played a fall game against South Mountain CC and over 100 scouts from the scout bureau and individual teams were at that game. I played 3B, left and pitched. Pitching with that many guns on me for the first time was nerve-racking but I guess I kind of blocked them out.
Q: How did your Team USA experience work for you. Did it let you see what the competition was like across the country?
A: Playing for the USA 17U National Team Development Program opened my eyes up to the talent across the country. Most of them were younger than me and in my eyes had a more developed game so, in the last year since then, I’ve tried to use what I learned/saw there to make me a better baseball player.
Q: Did anyone prepare you for draft week or what to expect?
A: I don’t think anyone can be fully prepared for draft week, it’s a very fun/frustrating/anxious time. Going in I had an idea of where I would go based on projections but obviously I went way later then expected so that just goes to show that anything can happen draft week. I was projected by the area scouts in higher rounds and basically it’s not up to those area scouts to make the final decisions on where I go but rather the scouting director and the GMs.
Q: What was the deciding factor that led you to stay with Utah?
A: Utah is in the Pac 12, one of the best baseball conferences in the country. If you can prove yourself in the Pac then pro teams know you can play. I wanted to go in to Utah and prove all the people wrong who passed on me in the draft. I know with the coaching and teammates there it’ll be a great experience along the way as well.
Q: Anything else you’d like to add?
A: I want to say congrats to one of my best friends Luis Gamez and also Alex Verdugo. It’s not very often you see three high school players get drafted from the same city and I’m honored to say I was one of them.
Andy Morales was recognized by the AIA as the top high school reporter in 2014 and has been a youth, high school and college coach for over 30 years. His own children have won multiple state high school championships and were named to all-state teams. Competing in hockey, basketball, baseball and track & field in high school, his unique perspective can only be found here, on AIA365.com and on the pages of the Vail Voice. Contact Andy Morales at AMoralesMyTucson@yahoo.com