One of the great mysteries of this season at Trustmark Park is the abrupt decline of Alex Jackson. The 22-year-old catcher, rated Atlanta’s No. 14 prospect entering the year, is batting .182 with one home run and eight RBIs in 32 games for the Mississippi Braves. He started off well enough, with eight hits in his first seven games in his second Double-A stint, but has since fallen into an abyss with no signs of climbing out. He’s batting .132 over his last 10 games, including an 0-for-4 with two strikeouts in Thursday’s first game against Jacksonville at the TeePee. Jackson was the sixth overall pick by Seattle in the 2014 draft, but he struggled to adjust to pro ball. Prior to last season, the Braves acquired him in a trade, moved him back to catcher – his high school position – and watched him take off. He hit .272 with 14 homers at Class A Florida before getting bumped to Mississippi. In 30 games in the Southern League, he batted .255 with five homers and 20 RBIs. He went to the Arizona Fall League and made the Top Prospects Team, sort of an All-AFL list. He was named an Atlanta organization All-Star by milb.com and invited to big league camp. MLB Pipeline projected him as a “Javy Lopez type of regular big league backstop when it’s all said and done.” That was before this season began. With three months left, Jackson has time to get back on that track. Some mysteries do have happy endings. P.S. Laurel’s Wooten Legion Field is the site for tonight’s National Urban Professional Baseball League (see previous posts) inaugural game, with the Josh Gibson All-Stars hosting the Vickie Pasley All-Stars in the opener of a four-game series. The four-team NUPBL was founded in response to declining numbers of African-American players in the game but is open to players of all races.
Is professional baseball coming to Laurel? The new National Urban Professional Baseball League, which is scheduled to hold tryouts this week in Jackson and Laurel, says on its website (nupbl.com) that Laurel will be home next spring to one of its teams, with others in Texas and Millington, Tenn. Tryouts, open to anyone 17 or older, are slated for Wednesday and Thursday at Jackson State’s Braddy Field and Saturday and Sunday at Laurel’s Wooten Legion Field. The league was founded in response to declining numbers of African-American players in the game but is open to players of all races. The NUPBL will honor Negro League stars and teams from the past. Several Mississippians are listed on the website as already having been chosen to participate. The 90-game schedule is slated to start in May, though no further details were available.