Occasionally here at East Village Times we would like to take the time to remember San Diego Padres players of the past. These players from years past are always close to our hearts, even though they are out of our brain for most part. Let us take a look at the playing career of Damian Jackson now. A Padres player who was personally one of my favorites, for the speed and enthusiasm he brought to the ballpark every day. Jackson played for the Padres for a total of four major league seasons. He actually had two stints as a Padre player. From 1999-2001 and again for one season in 2004.
The right-handed hitting Jackson was not considered a top prospect coming out of small Laney College in Oakland California. Jackson was draft in the 44th round of the 1991 draft by the Cleveland Indians. He was only 19 years old when he was drafted and only played one year of college ball. After five years in the minors, he made his major league debut September of 1996 when Jackson was 23 years old.
Jackson only played five games for the Indians in 1996 and eight games for the major league team in 1997, before he was part of a trade deadline deal. On July 31st 1997, Jackson was dealt from the Indians with Jim Crowell, Danny Graves and Scott Winchester to the Cincinnati Reds for Jeff Branson and John Smiley. Jackson played in only 25 games for the Reds in two major league seasons and was dealt to the Padres on February 2nd, 1999. He was just looking for a team to give him a chance.
The Padres traded fan favorite Greg Vaughn and Mark Sweeney to the Reds for Jackson, Reggie Sanders and Josh Harris. Sanders was clearly the best player the Padres acquired, but Jackson proved to be useful for the rebuilding San Diego Padres. The National League Championship Padres of 1998 were completely dismantled after being swept in the World Series. Ken Caminiti, Kevin Brown, Steve Finley and Greg Vaughn were all gone. The team needed youth an excitement and that’s what Jackson brought to the table. It was refreshing to see as a fan.
Damian Jackson stole 34 bases in 133 games for the Padres in his first full season in the major leagues in 1999. He played mostly shortstop, but showed his versatility by also playing second base, left field and right field. The speed that Jackson brought to the ballpark was valued, and the Padres tried to get him in the line-up where ever they could. His bat was a work in progress, but for the most part Jackson played very solid defense.
The next season Jackson played in a career high 138 games for the San Diego Padres. He collected 470 at bats and hit six home runs and drove in 37 runs. A .255/.345/.377 batting line was average, but Jackson stole 28 bases and amassed a 2.7 WAR for the year. Not a bad year at all. The year 2000 would be Jackson’s best year in the major leagues and he really never came close to that season in terms of statistics.
The 2001 season was overall a disappointment for the San Diego Padres. Jackson had a great propensity for striking out and after recording 128 strike outs in 122 games the Padres decided to go in another direction. Jackson was dealt on March 24, 20o2 to the Detroit Tigers with Matt Wallbeck for Rich Gomez and Javier Cardona. Damian Jackson made a return to the Padres, when the team signed him on November 11, 2004. He ended up playing in 118 games for the Padres playing shortstop, second base, third base, and the corner outfield positions.
Damian Jackson retired with four years under his belt as a San Diego Padre. He stepped to the plate 1,573 times and hit 24 homers with 137 runs batted in. Jackson stole 100 bags as a Padre and amassed a bating line of .243/.329/.356. Fairly impressive numbers for a middle infielder.
On July 14, 2001 Jackson smacked a broken bat grand slam in Houston off the Astros Wade Miller. The ball just barely cleared the 315 foot wall in left field. The Padres went on to win that game.
On July 10, 2000 Damian Jackson made one of the best plays in the outfield I have ever seen from a Padres outfielder. His 9th inning diving catch robbing Texas Rangers Chad Curtis of a game tying extra base hit was fantastic. Even more important was the catch also assured Trevor Hoffman of his 250th career save. That was just one of many spectacular plays Jackson was accustomed to making.
When the iconic Tony Gwynn passed in 2014, Jackson was one of Gwynn’s pallbearers for his private services. Jackson admired Gwynn very much and the two had a very special connection. Jackson grew up with out a father and very much looked to Gwynn as a father figure. At the public remembrance for Tony Gwynn in Petco Park, Jackson spoke to the crowd in attendance and broke into tears many times. It was very touching to see how much Gwynn meant to Damain Jackson and his career in professional baseball.
Damian Jackson had a 10 year career in the major leagues. He amassed a .243 average in 827 games and 2,209 at bats. Jackson stole 133 bases in the majors and drove in 198 runs. He played for eight different teams, lastly with the Washington Nationals in 2006. Damian Jackson is someone who most Padres fans probably hadn’t thought of for a long time. He was an exciting player to watch in the seasons here in San Diego, and will always be remembered by East Village Times.