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Eric Peterson, Published August 19 2012

Jackson's stellar season has RedHawks surging


Nic Jackson has a scar that spans from his first to second knuckles on his left hand, a clue as to why the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks center fielder didn’t play up to his expectations last season.

“It was basically like breaking your knuckles and tearing your ligaments at the same time,” Jackson said of the injury that he suffered near the middle of last season.

A year later, the hand is healthy and the 32-year-old Jackson is again playing up to his lofty standards, leading American Association baseball with 81 RBIs.

Jackson’s run-producing play has helped the RedHawks to the best record in American Association baseball this summer. F-M has a

58-29 mark after Sunday’s 4-0 victory against the Rockland Boulders at Newman Outdoor Field.

“He is an MVP-type player this year,” RedHawks manager Doug Simunic said. “He’s a superb all-around player with great instincts.”

Jackson said it was July of last season when he hurt his hand, diving back to second base on a pickoff play. Jackson bent back the index and middle fingers on his left hand. In addition, the opposing infielder stepped on Jackson’s hand.

“When it happened I knew it was something that wasn’t good,” Jackson said.

He said the initial X-rays came back negative and he played through the injury. Jackson said it was like he was “hitting with one hand” from that point. In 2011, The 6-foot-3, 225-pound Jackson ended up batting .287 with six home runs and 65 RBIs in 98 games. The team finished with a 44-56 record, the first losing season in franchise history (F-M started play in 1996). While some players would be satisfied with the numbers Jackson produced last season, he wasn’t.

“I took a lot of that personally because I didn’t feel like I played the way I should,” Jackson said. “Part of it was my hand, but you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.”

RedHawks second baseman Carlo Cota was impressed with the way Jackson handled the adversity. Last season marked the first time that Jackson batted below .300 for a season in an independent league.

“His emotions don’t necessarily change too much,” Cota said. “They’re pretty on point and that’s just being the professional that he is. He had a bad year for his standards and he went out there every day with his head held high. He ran out every ground ball and he ran down balls in the outfield. The way he played the game never changed.”

This past offseason, however, Jackson made sure he would come back better. Jackson, who lives in Richmond, Va., had hand surgery last November and made his offseason workouts a priority.

“I was going to do the work necessary to get it back to normal,” said Jackson, who batted .310 in 2009 and .305 in 2010 for the RedHawks.

Simunic sensed in the offseason that Jackson was poised for a big summer.

“In talking to him in the winter, I could hear in his voice that he had some things to show some people,” Simunic said. “He has just been a top-notch guy.”

Jackson’s version of “normal” has been spectacular. He’s batting .323 with 17 home runs through 87 games this summer to go along with his league-leading RBI total. Jackson also has 23 doubles and 17 stolen bases, holding down the third spot in the F-M batting order. If that wasn’t enough, Jackson is also one of the top defensive center fielders in the American Association.

Jackson has enjoyed the team’s success as much as his personal success. Jackson likes how the RedHawks have bounced back after a 9-17 start to this season that came on the heels of a sub-.500 2011.

“You go out every night and you expect to win as a team and I feel like we’ve gotten back to that,” said Jackson, who is in his fourth season with the RedHawks. “People were kind of wavering on that a little bit between last year and the beginning of this year. We have a winning culture again around Newman Outdoor Field.”

The Chicago Cubs drafted Jackson in the third round of the 2000 Major League Baseball Draft. Jackson played in affiliated baseball until 2007. He’s played in independent leagues since 2008 and plans to continue his pro career past this season.

“As long as I feel like I’m productive, I’m going to keep playing,” Jackson said. “I feel like a lot of times people try to tell guys when it’s time for them to stop. I want to keep playing because I love the game.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Eric Peterson at (701) 241-5513.

Peterson’s blog can be found

at peterson.areavoices.com