As a little kid in California, Emily Jackson lived, breathed and drank baseball. Her Bay Area house sat adjacent to the junior high school where her little league teams played. On a daily basis, she’d hop the fence and play pick-up games until the sky grew dark. When she wasn’t playing, she was taking her position behind the counter of the field’s Snack Shack — her first job.
“When I was growing up, Dustin Pedroia was my favorite player,” Jackson said recently of the Boston Red Sox star. “My uncle used to coach him in Little League. I grew up hearing about him and how he is such a scrappy player and stuff. They called me scrappy so I started thinking maybe I can be like Dustin Pedroia.”
These days, the 17-year- old Jackson plays softball instead of baseball. As the star second baseman of Woodinville’s powerhouse squad, she looks anything but scrappy. Physically, she’s lanky but athletic. You notice the efficient swing and pop in the bat. You notice the quick reflexes as she spears line drives with her agile glove. You notice the dependability as she scoops up routine grounders and fires over to first with mechanical accuracy. And when teammates make big plays on defense, you’ll notice Jackson converge with them at the mound to issue high-fives with the panache of a grizzled veteran.
Does she really still consider herself scrappy?
“Well, I’m going to say that sometimes I’m a scrappy player,” she said, laughing. “I’ve learned all the fundamentals, but on some plays you’ll still see me trip. Let’s just say I used to look a lot scrappier!”
Much of Jackson’s development occurred last year, during Woodinville’s undefeated championship season.
“We had a lot of great seniors so I learned a lot of leadership from them,” she said. “Especially from Makenna Weir, who was our shortstop. She taught me how to conduct yourself on the field and how to respect the game and your friends. That it’s a team game and it’s not about one person.
“Fielding is the strongest part of my game,” she continued. “But that’s only possible because (pitcher) Madi Schreyer gives us a lot of ground balls and Tori Lettus and I have a really good connection between second base and shortstop. I know that wherever I throw the ball it will be caught. The team makes my defense so much better.”
Following a 15-1 win over Roosevelt on April 26th, Woodinville upped its record to 14-1. Another run at a state title is in the offing. “This year’s success is not a surprise at all,” she said. “Our mindset is winning. Losing is not even in our mind. To us, winning comes naturally because it’s what we expect to do.”
As a senior captain, Jackson’s prep days are coming to a close. But her playing career will continue. She’ll soon bid friends and family farewell and move east on scholarship to Northern Illinois this fall.
“They saw me at a week-long tournament in Colorado,” Jackson said. “They called and asked me to come visit on a recruiting trip. I said of course because it seemed like a great opportunity. It was unlike any visit I had taken before. The head coach took us around the whole time. They made me feel at home and I hadn’t even committed yet. They were saying ‘when you come here you’ll see that we’re like family.’”
In the joyous manner Jackson spoke of Northern Illinois, it was equally obvious she loved the campus.
“Yeah, it’s kind of weird that I liked it so much,” she said. “It’s kind of enclosed and I liked that homey feel, but there are corn fields right there. I liked how you drive through the town of DeKalb — it’s just a small town — and it opens up into campus. It’s a campus town and I liked that very much.”
“Emily is a solid middle infielder from Washington,” Northern Illinois’s coach Christina Sutcliffe said recently. “Smooth, smooth hands. She’s just a true competitor. You can tell she works hard, loves the game, gritty, always dirty. She’s a good kid.”