Pitching, catching or hitting, Hilhi's Jackson Price is must-see
Baseball isn't for everyone — after all, one of the game's greats, Ted Williams, told the New York Times in 1982 that "hitting a baseball is the hardest thing to do in sports."
Hillsboro High School's Jackson Price understands the game's difficulty — and h embraces it. That's what makes it great to him.
"Ever since I was a kid, I've always loved watching it and playing it, and all the different little aspects of it," Price said. "It's hard, and even some of the best of the best are failing seven out of 10 times, but I've always gravitated to the fact that it's difficult."
It's more difficult for some than others, of course. For Price, it seems to come pretty easily.
In addition to throwing a no-hitter against Liberty April 1, the senior pitcher has started six games for the Spartans this season. Through 38 innings pitched, he has a 2.39 ERA and a 1.10 WHIP, and he has struck out 55 batters while walking 14.
He's not just a menace on the mound. At the plate, Price is batting .341 while leading his team in RBIs. He also plays catcher, working with and handling the pitches of his teammates.
Ask Hillsboro head coach Bob Berent which position Price is more valuable playing, and he'll shrug. The senior standout is exceptional both pitching and catching, Berent says — but it's both his ability and willingness to do whatever is asked of him that truly sets him apart.
"He's great on the mound and very good behind the dish, but he's also been great at doing what we need him to do anywhere," Berent said. "We've asked him to move around a little bit, and he's been able to do that in a positive fashion. He puts in the work and it's paying off."
Price's perspective is also paying dividends.
Price said he learned long ago — thanks in part to his dad, who coached him throughout his childhood — that failure is not a loss, but rather an opportunity to get better in the end.
"It took a while to learn, especially when you're young and going out there and getting out over and over again," he said, "but as I got older and learned and worked to get better, you learn from your mistakes and take from the hard times."
Price also likes the pressure. Whether at the plate facing a full count or on the mound with runners in scoring position, Price said he embraces the moments that define who you are, as both a team and as an individual player on the diamond.
"You get some high-stress situations, but when the pressure's on, you've got to figure it out," he said. "Sure, it's tough, but pushing through that makes you get better — and it really pushes you."
Price is one of four Hilhi seniors, along with Collin Rickis, Luke Calvert and Kyle Meyer, who have been playing varsity baseball since their freshmen year. Coach Berent has talked about how difficult it was watching the four seniors lose their sophomore year and much of last season to COVID-19, but Price said that while he was certainly disappointed by the way the last couple of years played out, it's made this year and season that much better.
"Coming up together as a group and now getting to finish it with each other has been awesome," Price said. "Some of that stuff, yeah, it was hard, but coming back together and having to figure stuff out and get back into the groove of things with these guys has been a lot of fun."
The Spartans are coming off of a three-game sweep at the hands of league-leading Wilsonville, but they played the Wildcats tough despite missing three key players due to injury. They sit third in the Northwest Oregon Conference standings and remain focused on making the state playoffs.
Price believes they can.
"We've got a lot of talent on this team, and I believe in these guys," Price said. "I know if we put the work in, we can do some great things."
The senior is slated to attend and play baseball at Pacific University in Forest Grove next season, and while it's yet to be determined which end of the battery he'll be on in college, his high school coach believes he's capable of either.
"I absolutely believe he has the ability to either pitch or catch at the next level, but that's for him to go out there and figure it out," Berent said. "He's got a lot of versatility, and Pacific should be excited to have a kid like that."
And what's still left for Price to accomplish at Hillsboro High? Simply put — keep playing.
"We want to make a playoff run," he said. "We want to go out there and compete with the best, and we're fighting for it."
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