When I first moved to Denver, back in 2007, numerous media members told me about this young ballplayer in town, a preordained prodigy with a professional pedigree.
The kid was 3.
Before Rockies games, Matt Holliday’s son would take swings in the Colorado clubhouse, crushing kid-friendly balls across the room. Father and son would also play out on the field and onlookers wondered — is Matt Holliday’s toddler the next Matt Holliday?
“He’s really always had a very fundamentally sound swing, as far back as I can remember him being able to walk,” said Holliday, who had a 1.012 OPS in 2007, by phone this past week. “I remember my dad hung a whiffle ball on a string up on our porch, tying it to the roof. And even at 2 years old, he’s out there hitting it as it would swing back and forth — hitting this moving target at 2 years old, no problem.”
Jackson Holliday is now 18. He just completed high school in Stillwater, Oklahoma. And he’s the possible No. 1 pick in the 2022 Major League Baseball draft. On one hand, it’s extraordinary — out of the tens of thousands of ballplayers in his age group (and of all draft-eligible college players), Jackson didn’t just become one of the better ones, but the possibly pick No. 1.
On the other hand, it all checks out.
“I just remember watching him as a young kid — and we have pictures of him — in really good positions to hit,” said Matt, who had an OPS of .874 in eight seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals. “He’s always had a pretty naturally gifted swing. And just always wanted to be at the field and around the guys: ‘Pitch to me. Play catch with me. Hit me grounders.’”
Knowing Matt, he’d be proud of Jackson even if his son couldn’t hit jack. That said, this all couldn’t have happened to a more-deserving dad. Matt is simultaneously serious about the sport, but caring and compassionate. And by the time Matt comes to St. Louis this August for his induction into the Cardinals Hall of Fame, Jackson will be a professional ballplayer.
“The thing we’re most proud of,” Matt said of himself and his wife, Leslee, “is he’s a really good kid and a very humble kid. He’s handled this all with grace. And so, it’s been fun to watch.”
This year, the three-day draft begins on Sunday, July 17, in Los Angeles, the site of the All-Star Game two days after. The horrible Orioles have the first pick, followed by the Diamondbacks, Rangers and Pirates (the Cards pick 22nd).