Jackson Gaining Confidence at Instructs

It was an interesting first full year of professional baseball for Austin Jackson. Enduring hot and cold stretches both offensively and defensively, while making adjustments to his game the entire year, had shaken his confidence at times. Receiving intense one-on-one coaching at Instructs has given him more confidence heading into the offseason.

"I think I had a so-so year," Austin Jackson said of his 2006 season. "I had a lot of things that I had to work on and I was trying to do it during the season. It was a learning experience for me. Now that I think I've learned a couple of things this mini-camp [Instructs], next year will be a lot better for me."

Sometimes critics get too concerned with statistics at the lower minor league levels, often times not realizing that young players are still making dramatic changes to their game and they are incorporating them in game situations, which wreaks havoc on their numbers.

"As far as offensively, I had a little drift with my body right before I'd get ready to swing, which was causing me to get fooled on a lot of offspeed pitches," Jackson admitted to PinstripesPlus.com at Instructs. "I had a lot of strikeouts because I didn't recognize a pitch early and I'd swing at a lot of bad pitches. I've been working here [Instructs] on staying back and I'm seeing the ball a lot better and a lot longer."

Jackson, who finished his first full season hitting .260 with 37 stolen bases, did hit .321 in April but tailed off as the season wore on, not surprising for a first-year player.

"Probably the first month and a half," he said when he felt the most comfortable. "I just felt like anything they could pitch it through, I knew what was coming and if was a strike, I could hit it. After that, I don't know if it was fatigue or what, there was that drift and it hurt me a lot. My strikeout numbers went up a lot."

Batting leadoff more in an effort to get as many at-bats as possible more so than a reflection of where he projects to hit in a big league lineup someday, Jackson struck out a team-leading 151 times this past season, much to his surprise.

"Yeah, I'm concerned about that," Jackson said of his strikeout totals, "because I never do that a lot. That's not something I normally do. I'm a contact guy and just put the ball in play, even with two strikes. I was a little frustrated about that. I think I let that get to me in other parts of the game, defense sometimes."

Not being accustomed to piling up the strikeout totals shook his confidence and he hit just a combined .234 in May in June. But the Yankees made some adjustments to Jackson's swing in the second-half of the season and he finished the season hitting .260 in his last 59 games.

"We kind of changed my batting stance to a more open batting stance because I would kind of step into the plate," Jackson revealed. "When I opened my stance, that helped me. We did a couple of things with my hands, with my positioning. The big thing though was just opening up my batting stance to help me see the ball better. I think [before] I didn't have both of my eyes on the ball so I think that helped."

Part of the problem for the mid-season swoon however was hitting the proverbial wall. All young prospects hear about the physical and mental demands of a long season in their first full year, but all the warnings in the world can't help prepare them for what they are about to experience.

"I want to put on some weight," said the 19-year old Jackson. "I want to be better conditioned going into the season [next year]. It's a long season. About two months into it, your body is tired and worn down a little bit."

"Going through that first full season, I think, it will help me this offseason because I'll know the things that I need to work on. Like I said, putting on weight, better conditioning, hitting a lot - I'm going to hit a lot this offseason - and get my arm strong."

Another aspect of the game young prospects must learn is the mental side of the game. A big reason why scouts do not put much credence into a player's numbers, especially at the lower minor league levels, is because they realize that they are just beginning to learn how to deal with the physical and mental rigors of the game for the first time.

"I knew it was going to be hard just because a lot of the guys in the past told me that if you start struggling, the best thing is to be positive," said Jackson. "You're body is going to believe it and respond to what your mind is saying. I tried to stay positive for the most part. I know I got down a lot this year. That first full year was a learning experience. I know if I don't have it mentally, I won't succeed."

Dealing with all the in-game instruction, constantly making adjustments to their game, all while dealing with the physical and mental strains of a season they are not truly prepared for, drastically shakes a player's confidence at times.

But while Jackson had his confidence put to the test in 2006, and believing the experience of his first full year will pay huge dividends down the road, he believes the confidence he has picked up at Instructs this season has been priceless.

"My confidence has gone up even over the last couple of days," Jackson told us. "I know I can do these things. Just hearing it sometimes is a lot better. Each coach that I've worked with, they're showing me different techniques that they know and it's helped me out a lot."

Pinstripes Plus Top Stories

\r\n \r\n\r\n\"I think I had a so-so year,\" Austin Jackson said of his 2006 season. \"I had a lot of things that I had to work on and I was trying to do it during the season. It was a learning experience for me. Now that I think I've learned a couple of things this mini-camp [Instructs], next year will be a lot better for me.\"
\r\n
\r\nSometimes critics get too concerned with statistics at the lower minor league levels, often times not realizing that young players are still making dramatic changes to their game and they are incorporating them in game situations, which wreaks havoc on their numbers.
\r\n
\r\n\"As far as offensively, I had a little drift with my body right before I'd get ready to swing, which was causing me to get fooled on a lot of offspeed pitches,\" Jackson admitted to PinstripesPlus.com at Instructs. \"I had a lot of strikeouts because I didn't recognize a pitch early and I'd swing at a lot of bad pitches. I've been working here [Instructs] on staying back and I'm seeing the ball a lot better and a lot longer.\"
\r\n
\r\nJackson, who finished his first full season hitting .260 with 37 stolen bases, did hit .321 in April but tailed off as the season wore on, not surprising for a first-year player.
\r\n
\r\n\"Probably the first month and a half,\" he said when he felt the most comfortable. \"I just felt like anything they could pitch it through, I knew what was coming and if was a strike, I could hit it. After that, I don't know if it was fatigue or what, there was that drift and it hurt me a lot. My strikeout numbers went up a lot.\"
\r\n
\r\nBatting leadoff more in an effort to get as many at-bats as possible more so than a reflection of where he projects to hit in a big league lineup someday, Jackson struck out a team-leading 151 times this past season, much to his surprise.
\r\n
\r\n\"Yeah, I'm concerned about that,\" Jackson said of his strikeout totals, \"because I never do that a lot. That's not something I normally do. I'm a contact guy and just put the ball in play, even with two strikes. I was a little frustrated about that. I think I let that get to me in other parts of the game, defense sometimes.\"
\r\n
\r\nNot being accustomed to piling up the strikeout totals shook his confidence and he hit just a combined .234 in May in June. But the Yankees made some adjustments to Jackson's swing in the second-half of the season and he finished the season hitting .260 in his last 59 games.
\r\n
\r\n\"We kind of changed my batting stance to a more open batting stance because I would kind of step into the plate,\" Jackson revealed. \"When I opened my stance, that helped me. We did a couple of things with my hands, with my positioning. The big thing though was just opening up my batting stance to help me see the ball better. I think [before] I didn't have both of my eyes on the ball so I think that helped.\"
\r\n
\r\nPart of the problem for the mid-season swoon however was hitting the proverbial wall. All young prospects hear about the physical and mental demands of a long season in their first full year, but all the warnings in the world can't help prepare them for what they are about to experience.
\r\n
\r\n\"I want to put on some weight,\" said the 19-year old Jackson. \"I want to be better conditioned going into the season [next year]. It's a long season. About two months into it, your body is tired and worn down a little bit.\"
\r\n
\r\n\"Going through that first full season, I think, it will help me this offseason because I'll know the things that I need to work on. Like I said, putting on weight, better conditioning, hitting a lot - I'm going to hit a lot this offseason - and get my arm strong.\"
\r\n
\r\nAnother aspect of the game young prospects must learn is the mental side of the game. A big reason why scouts do not put much credence into a player's numbers, especially at the lower minor league levels, is because they realize that they are just beginning to learn how to deal with the physical and mental rigors of the game for the first time.
\r\n
\r\n\"I knew it was going to be hard just because a lot of the guys in the past told me that if you start struggling, the best thing is to be positive,\" said Jackson. \"You're body is going to believe it and respond to what your mind is saying. I tried to stay positive for the most part. I know I got down a lot this year. That first full year was a learning experience. I know if I don't have it mentally, I won't succeed.\"
\r\n
\r\nDealing with all the in-game instruction, constantly making adjustments to their game, all while dealing with the physical and mental strains of a season they are not truly prepared for, drastically shakes a player's confidence at times.
\r\n
\r\nBut while Jackson had his confidence put to the test in 2006, and believing the experience of his first full year will pay huge dividends down the road, he believes the confidence he has picked up at Instructs this season has been priceless.
\r\n
\r\n\"My confidence has gone up even over the last couple of days,\" Jackson told us. \"I know I can do these things. Just hearing it sometimes is a lot better. Each coach that I've worked with, they're showing me different techniques that they know and it's helped me out a lot.\"
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