Dusty Baker's Godson, Noah Jackson, Had a Major League Childhood
April 22, 2002
BERKELEY, Calif. - Cal baseball player Noah Jackson has lived every little leaguer's fantasy. A sophomore outfielder for the Golden Bears, Jackson has rubbed shoulders with some of the greatest professional baseball players in the history of the game. He was a bat boy during the glory days of the Oakland Athletics in the late 80s and early 90s, he has hung out with Ricky Henderson and he has lifted weights with Barry Bonds.
And Jackson's godfather is San Francisco Giants manager Dusty Baker.
'My father Sylvester did both a pre-game radio show and TV show for the A's and that is how I was able to have the opportunity to be around major league players and experience the life of pro baseball as a kid,' explained Jackson. 'The TV show was called the 'Inside Pitch' and it was based on one-on-one interviews.'
Sylvester Jackson's pre-game shows were unique. He had Ricky Henderson cut his hair and also followed Henderson back to his childhood haunts at Oakland Tech High School and Bushrod/Billy Martin Field in Berkeley. He would also go on runs with Dennis Eckersley, would go shopping with Dave Stewart and basically broke away from the typical media-athlete relationship. Jackson was one of the first members of the media to do these type of human interest stories.
It was through Sylvester cultivating relationships with the A's that Noah first got the chance to be a bat boy and hang out with players' and coaches' kids. It was also during this time that Sylvester and Noah first met Dusty Baker when Baker was closing out his playing career with Oakland. Then in 1992, Sylvester passed away from cancer when Noah was 11 and shortly after that, Baker became Noah's godfather.
'When my father passed away, Dusty began looking after me,' said Jackson. 'When Dusty became a hitting coach with the Giants and later the manager, it was interesting switching my loyalties from the A's to the Giants because they were bitter cross-town rivals. I used to live with Dusty during home series in the spring and then I would stay with him during the summer. It was an extended family for me because of the relationships my father had built up. It is a group of people I am still in contact with. They still look out for me.'
When he wasn't with Dusty Baker, Jackson was growing up in Mill Valley, Calif. with his mother, Marilyn, and younger sister, Jolieba, and attending Marin Catholic High School. He played two years of varsity baseball at Marin Catholic, batting an impressive .485 with 17 home runs and 60 RBI. Jackson considered playing at Arizona State, Florida State and Santa Clara, but opted to attend Arkansas, where he redshirted in 2000 in order to recover from a broken hamate bone in his left hand that he suffered his senior year of high school.
'My draw to Arkansas was to get out of the state of California,' said Jackson. 'It was the best way to leave home and experience the world and get the college experience.'
But after a year in Fayetteville, Jackson was not happy with the community and the university, and was ready to return to the West Coast and give a shot at playing baseball for Cal in the Pac-10 Conference.
'The fact I got into Cal, I felt it was important to take advantage of the education,' said Jackson. 'The academics are far and away more difficult than at Arkansas. Here at Cal you have to learn to manage your time. Athletics are not at the forefront like they are at Arkansas, and I'd rather have a college experience like that.'
As a redshirt freshman last season, Jackson played in 10 games, batting .263 with four RBI. Included in those four RBI was a game-winning single down the right field line against Santa Clara. This season, Jackson has played in 16 games with seven starts (five in left field, two as designated hitter), batting .273 with two doubles and two RBI. His top games include going 2-for-4 Mar. 20 versus Saint Mary's, a career-best 3-for-3 with a double and RBI Mar. 22 at Washington State and 2-for-2 with a double Apr. 6 versus UCLA.
But Jackson, who is batting .333 (6-for-18) in Pac-10 play, has had some adversity to overcome this spring. The day after his 3-for-3 game against WSU, he hit a foul ball that deflected off his bat and hit him in the forehead. Then on Apr. 2, Jackson was hit by a pitch against Santa Clara, injuring his left wrist that he is still recovering from, even though he went 2-for-2 with a double his next game, Apr. 6 against UCLA.
Despite some setbacks, Jackson has a bright future with the Bears and is enjoying his college experience in Berkeley. And yes, Dusty Baker has attended a Cal baseball game.
'If I don't get the opportunity to play pro baseball I would like to follow in my father's footsteps,' said Jackson, who is majoring in American studies with an interest in broadcast journalism. 'I want to be involved in sports in some way because I enjoyed seeing my father work with professional athletes and I have been around professional athletes my entire life.'
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