Making it as a pitcher in Major League Baseball is a lot like succeeding as a professional golfer.
In each case you must labor in relative obscurity and endure both growing pains and physical pain before you enjoy life in the “big time.”
Thus, it can be said that Jackson Jobe is following in the footsteps of his father, former Kent Denver star Brandt Jobe.
Jackson’s in the Arizona Fall League this month, an indication that the Detroit Tigers consider him a top prospect. And last week he was the opening day starting pitcher for the Salt River Rafters, further indication of his elevated status. (Besides the Tigers, the Rafters include players from the Rockies, Diamondbacks, Cardinals and Blue Jays.)
Dad Brandt won the Colorado Golf Association Junior Stroke Play Championship in 1983, and two years later became only the eighth player since 1937 to win the CGA Stroke Play and Match Play championships in the same year. He won the 1992 Colorado Open and, in 2005, was inducted into the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame.
But, turning pro after earning All-America honors three straight years at UCLA, Brandt Jobe achieved his greatest success by globe-trotting. During the 1990s he won a dozen tournaments, six in Japan, four elsewhere in Asia and two in Canada. The first came in Vancouver, British Columba in 1990.
Playing in the States, he finished second four times on the PGA Tour, including a second at The International at Castle Pines in 2005. Since turning 50 in 2015, he has won twice on the Champions Tour. Altogether, his tournament earnings exceed $9 million.
Jackson was the No. 3 overall choice in the 2021 Major League Baseball amateur draft—as an 18-year-old graduate of Heritage Hall High in Oklahoma City. He signed for a reported $6.9 million.
“My dad’s taught me to save all that for now,” Jackson said at the time.
Being part of a pro athlete’s household—even if the sport is golf, not baseball—unquestionably prepares the next generation for life in front of fans. Interviewed before the Senior Players Championship in Akron the year the Tigers chose his son, Brandt recalled some words of wisdom he’d passed on:
“I said, ‘The one thing you’re going to find in this game is, it’s so hard because people are always looking at you. So, as good as you are on the field, you’ve got to be that good off the field. If you can do that, that will separate you from a lot of people because it’s very hard to do.’”
That’s part of the makeup that impressed Detroit’s Director of Amateur Scouting, Scott Pleis, enough to recommend taking Jobe ahead of where most “experts” predicted he’d go in the draft.
Other factors were his size (6-feet-2, 190 pounds), his leadership as the quarterback and a starting safety on defense for Heritage Hall’s state championship football team when he was just a sophomore, and, above all, the unusually high spin rate on his slider.
“He’s an advanced high school pitcher, a special talent with ‘plus’ tools across the board,” said Pleis in 2021, “an athlete, with four pitches that have life . . . command—the total package, which we rarely see in high school baseball.”
Now 20, Jackson Jobe suffered a setback last March that, while not as serious as the hand, shoulder and back injuries his father has overcome in his career, exposed him to a little of the uncertainty that’s part of a pro athlete’s journey.
During a bullpen session early in spring training, Jackson tweaked his back. What was diagnosed as lumbar spine inflammation kept him out of action until mid-June.
Once he returned, he buzzed across four levels, from Rookie to Double-A. Pitching for teams in Florida, Michigan and Pennsylvania, Jackson struck out 84 in 64 innings, combined, while walking only six, and compiled a 2.81 earned run average.
In his Fall League debut—four shutout innings against the Glendale Desert Dogs (comprised of top prospects from the Dodgers, Brewers, Twins, Reds and White Sox)—Jackson allowed only two hits, struck out four and walked two.
His fastball reached 97 miles per hour, and two of his strikeouts came on a changeup he’s trying to master.
“Super happy to be here; I feel like I did my job,” he said afterwards, then added:
“But I definitely can be better.”
Denny Dressman is a veteran of 43 years in the newspaper business, including 25 at the Rocky Mountain News, where he began as executive sports editor. He is the author of 15 books, nine of them sports-related. You can write to Denny at email@example.com.