It was Game 2 of the 2013 American League Championship Series.Austin Jackson was playing centerfield for the Detroit Tigers. David Ortiz stepped into the batter’s box with the bases loaded in the bottom of the eighth, representing the tying run. Jackson saw Ortiz blast a deep fly ball into the Boston night. He raced over to back up rightfielder Torii Hunter but was helpless to do anything as the veteran unsuccessfully flipped over the short wall without the ball.
As the Fenway crowd went up for grabs and a policeman stationed in the bullpen went viral, Jackson dutifully helped his teammate up. The damage was done, though, as the Red Sox went on to win that game, the series, and the world championship.
The Tigers, once again, came up just shy in the quest for a World Series.
Jackson, now a journeyman with the Cleveland Indians, has a realistic chance to return to the Fall Classic. And he’ll be damned if he’s going to give less than 110 percent to get there.
He was in that same familiar centerfield spot on Tuesday night when Hanley Ramirez drove a ball to right-center. This time, things played out differently as Jackson made the catch of a lifetime, tumbling over the wall in a near flip and holding onto the ball.
It’s not hyperbole to say it will go down as one of the finest catches of all-time. The flexibility and fearlessness required were astounding. The focus to hang on even as the whole world was crashing on was the stuff of motivational posters.
Revenge is a dish best served upside-down. It took nearly four years, but Jackson got it. In that time, much has changed. The 30-year-old outfielder has gone from everyday leadoff man to a spot starter with a diminished role. But if the Indians are to make another deep run, his speed and defense will play a role at some point.
The beauty of baseball is that long periods of inaction instantaneously evaporate into high-leverage and, sometimes, dramatic bouts of deja vu. When Jackson’s time came, he was ready and put it all on the line to deliver.