Fourteen-year-old Jackson White of James Island will be doing something next week that local professional baseball standouts Brett Gardner, Justin Smoak and Matt Wieters wish they were doing. White will be participating in Major League All-Star Game festivities at CitiField in New York.
Not in the game itself, but in the Pitch, Hit & Run competition that will be held Monday. He is one of 24 boys and girls ages 7-14 trying to win a national title. The participants will throw six pitches at a strike zone-sized target, sprint the bases from second to home plate and then hit for distance.
Later that day, White and the other qualifiers will get to shag balls hit by major leaguers during the Home Run Derby before the winners are recognized. White, his parents Jim and Pam White, and older brother Zan will also attend Tuesday’s All-Star Game.
White, who played third base, shortstop and pitched this summer for a North Charleston 16-17U Dixie Youth Pre-Majors team, has always been a standout athlete. At 6-2, he was one of the tallest point guards in his basketball league. He won the 2011 Pitch, Hit & Run competition in Atlanta and finished seventh nationally.
Ken King, who began coaching Jackson at age 9 and attended the Pitch, Hit & Run event in Atlanta both times that Jackson competed, said he was not surprised.
“He’s always been that bigger kid everybody looked up to,” King said. “I’ve always said to my other coaches, ‘If anyone has a chance of playing beyond high school and college, Jackson is one of them.’ He has raw talent and size.”
The road to CitiField wasn’t easy. White won the sectional event held at St. Andrew’s Playground by one point. The top three scores in his age group (13-14) in the six-state region then advanced to the Atlanta Braves team event. White won that, then had to wait until June 30 when the top three from all of the Major League Baseball teams were announced on the MLB Network as qualifiers for the All-Star Game.
The Whites had gone to Pam’s parents’ house to watch the announcement because they don’t get the MLB Network.
“I was pretty nervous. I didn’t know whether I was going to make it or not. My score from Atlanta was the highest I had ever done. I knew there was a chance, but I had no idea I was going to be one of the three,” said White, who is a rising freshman at James Island Charter High School.
Time dragged over the entire weekend, Pam White said. They were told the announcement would come sometime between 6:30 p.m. and 7:10 p.m., so they began watching 10 minutes early and the announcement wasn’t made until the last minute of the show.
“We didn’t want to be thinking about it, but we couldn’t not think about it,” Pam said. “We were not expecting it, but of course hoping it would happen.
“I was trying to tape it on my phone kinda quietly. I didn’t want it to be a big deal in case he didn’t make it, but my hands were shaking too badly, so it was just a blur. Then we all started screaming so hard I think I dropped the phone. It was surreal.”
Pam said the family was so busy jumping and celebrating that she can’t remember Jackson’s reaction.
“I think we all just attacked him,” she said. “I don’t think he had a chance to respond. I think he was pretty much mobbed by all of us. And then after about five minutes of us jumping around and yelling, he looked at his brother and said ‘Let’s go fishing,’ which I think is pretty funny. I think they didn’t know what to do at that point.”
It was quite a day. They caught fish and they learned they were going to the All-Star Game.