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Austin Jackson inspired to contribute with Giants

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Giants newly acquired center fielder Austin Jackson answers questions as the San Francisco Giants hold media day at AT&T Park in San Francisco, Calif., on Friday, February 9, 2018.

Longoria. McCutchen. Jackson?

Amidst the two blockbuster trades that brought perennial All-Stars Evan Longoria and Andrew McCutchen to the San Francisco Giants, Austin Jackson was signed last month to far less fanfare.

Jackson may not come with the name recognition of his fellow additions, or bring a resume comparable to either. But, he has the ability to impact the 2018 Giants all the same. He has been driven to succeed ever since his childhood.

Growing up in Denton, Texas, one of his biggest role models as a kid was none other than “The Kid,” Ken Griffey Jr:

“Just the swag. Griffey made it look so fun to play. I had the shoes, I had the backwards, wore the jersey. Hit from the right side, but … emulated his batting stance, even when I was at a young age. … Griffey was a guy that made me wanna play the game.”

This Hall of Famer was not the only one driving Jackson toward a future career in the MLB, though. His father was a mentor and role model growing up.

Without the sacrifices made by his father, Jackson may not have ever had a chance to reach his major league dream:

“My dad, he was really supportive of me growing up. He hand-built me a cage in the back, put lights up and we would hit all night long. He’s definitely a big reason why I’m here where I’m at right now just because of the work we put in at such a young age.”

The Giants will be the sixth team Jackson has played for in his eight-year career.

He was initially drafted by the Yankees, but reached the big leagues for the first time as a member of the Detroit Tigers, where he spent the first four-and-a-half years of his career. There was managed by current United States baseball team manager Jim Leyland.

Leyland, Jackson said, became the manager who has had the biggest impact on his career:

“My rookie year, Jim Leyland was a really great manager and good mentor for me. I’ve seen him managing a lot of Hall of Famers. He really had a way of being able to bring the most out of you each and every day. He believed in his players.”

At this point, it looks like Jackson will be the Giants’ starting center fielder on opening day. However, this decision is still very much up in the air.

Whatever his role on the team ends up being, Jackson is simply eager to contribute:

“I’m hoping that I can be one of the guys to help contribute any way that I can … at this point, I think it’s not as much of a concern for me where I’m gonna be at, or where I’m gonna hit, or where I’m gonna play.”

“Ajax,” a career .275 hitter, has always known how to combine speed with strong hitting. Any player who can get on base like he can will have a place and a positive contribution to give this year’s Giants team.

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