FOX Sports MLB Analyst
Jackson Vacation is wise beyond his years, even if he doesn’t seem it.
The 19-year-old phenom is currently baseball’s No. 1 prospect and is already in Triple-A just over a year after being selected first overall in the 2022 MLB Draft by the Baltimore Orioles. For good reason too: the man has succeeded at every level of professional baseball in which he has appeared. He even hit his first Triple-A home run on Thursday after our exclusive interview on “Flippin’ Bats.”
Holliday’s youthful appearance masks his incredible talent and baseball IQ honed under the guidance of his father Matt Holliday, a seven-time All-Star with the Colorado Rockies and St. Louis Cardinals. In chatting with him, it was easy to tell that the younger Holliday learned a lot growing up in the MLB clubhouse from his father and could now apply those lessons on a daily basis.
Despite the fact that he will be one of the youngest players in a very young (and very, very good) Orioles core, he already has closer exposure to the MLB postseason than most of his teammates.
“I grew up around baseball and my dad was with the Cardinals, they made the playoffs every year,” Holliday told me. “All I know is playoff baseball and good teams.”
Of course, Holliday’s youth can still pose problems at times, just like when he tried to check into a hotel in my old college town of Norfolk, Virginia, after being called up by the Norfolk Tides, the affiliate Triple-A Baltimore.
“We had everything located, and they’re like, ‘Can we see your ID? … You can’t get a room unless you’re 21. You can (reserve) a room, but you can’t not register if you’re not 21. That makes sense. So the guy said to me, “Well, you’re not old enough.”
Jackson asked hotel staff if he could ask his mother to check him in. The hotel staff responded, “Sure, is your mother nearby?”
Leslee Holliday was back home in Stillwater, Oklahoma.
“I’m like, ‘Well, I just got called up to play baseball for the Orioles,’ and he’s like, ‘All right, here’s the room,'” Jackson Holliday recalled. “It was quite funny. Quite a long day.”
The story quickly went viral when Holliday told a local reporter about his ordeal the next day.
“Everything’s fine,” Holliday told me. “They were very, very nice and they put us in touch, so that was great.”
Baltimore Orioles’ Jackson Holliday on transitioning from high school to the pros
Meanwhile, on the field, Holliday continues to hone his skills as a shortstop and at the plate. Some of his favorite players growing up – besides his father – were Troy Tulowitzki and Nolan Arenado, and Holliday has more recently modeled parts of his game after current star shortstops like Trea Turner, Bo Bichette and Corey Seager. He even worked with Cody Bellinger last offseason.
“He loves baseball and that’s all we wanted to talk about,” Holliday said. “It was cool for me to see, and it definitely helped me this year to be able to hold my own on and off the field.”
Like the vast majority of minor league prospects (myself included), Holliday initially had some difficulty adjusting to professional baseball, even as a first overall draft pick. But he’s definitely made the adjustment now, as evidenced by a .322/.443/.505 slash line across four (!!!) levels in the minors this season.
Holliday says his struggles on the exhibition circuit against many other future professionals before his senior year of high school helped prepare him, as did some early adjustments once he arrived at the Orioles facility after being drafted.
“Challenging myself off the field in practice has been really helpful,” Holliday said. “When I got to the Low-A level last year, being able to control the zone and not hit balls, and whenever I started counting batters, being able to capitalize was very helpful.”
Soon, Holliday will be in the major leagues — if not this season, then at least early in 2024, provided he stays healthy. Although the Orioles already have many young stars such as Adley Rutschman and Gunnar Henderson – who Holliday has nothing but praise for on and off the field – he is still the first overall pick and faces pressure ensuing. with that.
“I feel like I did a really good job going out and playing baseball,” Holliday said. “A friend of mine back home (told me), ‘Pressure is a privilege.’ … If you have pressure, you have to do something right. So that’s kind of how I did it. Luckily, I’m in an organization with a really talented group of guys, and a lot of guys with who I get along well with, so it’s fun to be able to come here and play.
Baseball fans will also have the privilege of seeing Holliday be very, very good for a very long time. I’m so excited to see him in the big leagues, where he will join an Orioles team that looks like it should be in playoff contention over the next few seasons.
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Holliday understands the expectations that await him in the majors – and he has high ones, too. He wants to win Gold Gloves and would like to win a batting average title as well as his father did in 2007. But for now, he’s aiming for the day when he’s no longer baseball’s top prospect, but a true big league player. a World Series hopeful.
“I’m trying to get to the big leagues as quickly as possible and help the Orioles win championships,” Holliday said. “That’s the goal, to help the Orioles win a World Series and have a very long career.”
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