Pelicans’ new top prospect has friends in high places

The Pelicans welcome another new player to the field tonight.  Righty Luke Jackson takes the rotation spot of recently promoted Cody Buckel (who made his Double-A debut yesterday).

If you look quickly it will seem like nothing’s changed.  Both men sport a Bieber-esque hairdo, although Jackson is substantially taller than Buckel.  So…who is Luke Jackson?

Myrtle Beach’s newest pitcher is a first round pick from the 2010 draft, selected after the Rangers took Birds outfielder Jake Skole and Kellin Deglin (in Hickory).  He spent his first pro season as a Crawdad and opened again in Low-A this season, leading Hickory with 71 strikeouts.

A native of Florida, Jackson becomes the third Sunshine Stater on the Pelicans, joining fellow first rounder Skole and pitcher Jimmy Reyes.  The Rangers were able to lure Jackson to a pro contract out of Cavalry Christian Academy near Ft. Lauderdale and away from the University of Miami.

Now, living in south Florida, you figure Jackson’s probably had his brush with celebrity.  I mean, just walking down South Beach or eating at Pinks you have a pretty good chance to rub elbows with somebody notable.  Jackson is no exception to the rule and has had a couple cool encounters to date…although they haven’t come strolling the beaches.

Jackson has three notable pictures with celebrities: one each from Nashville, Capitol Hill and Cooperstown.  We begin with country music sensation Taylor Swift, whom Jackson laughing joked he had love at first sight.  “I never got a phone number so I never followed up,” Jackson followed.

“When I was a junior in high school I was at a country music concert,” Jackson said.  “I was just walking down the hallway and [Taylor Swift and I] came face to face and she kissed me on the cheek and it was pretty awkward.  I got a picture of that.”It was through baseball Jackson snapped his other photos.  The first is pretty conventional — a shot with Rangers President Nolan Ryan.  Sure it’s cool because he’s in the Hall-of-Fame, but it’s also business as usual because he’s also the boss.

The final picture is with a former President not of the Rangers, but of the United States, George W. Bush.  Then in high school, Jackson had just been drafted by the Rangers and was getting a tour of the Ballpark at Arlington.

“I walked in the bathroom and he was standing there so it was kind of awkward,” Jackson explained.  “There were like five secret service in there.  I asked if he minded getting a picture.”

Pictures are cool, yes, but Jackson is more than just a star struck 20-something.  He’s also a pretty well rounded kid, having gone on mission trips with his family to places like Russia and Africa, working to help orphan children around the world.

“My parents really showed me what’s outside of the United States and what poverty really is,” Jackson said.  “Ever since my senior year baseball’s kind of taken over a bit but I’d love to get back out there.  You realize ‘I’m playing baseball for a living.’  You have a meal after I finish.  We have a pregame meal where there are kids hoping they get a meal every week.”

Tune in to FOX Sports 1050 and 101.9 tonight to catch Jackson’s first Pelicans start, or follow online at MyrtleBeachPelicans.com.  And we’ll have to follow up with Taylor Swift.

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