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May 03. 2012 12:31AM

Kevin Gray's On Baseball: Jays' first-round selections display different tastes

MANCHESTER -- Strong winds have knocked down fly balls or carried them out of the park during the current Fisher Cats homestand. Justin Jackson got twisted in knots before diving and failing to make a catch against the Reading Phillies.

It’s not easy playing center field at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium — not even for a first-round pick.

Jackson is among five first rounders on New Hampshire’s active roster. These are the guys who signed for big bucks and have the highest expectations. They also get the most opportunity.

Jackson, 23, is the positive-thinking son of former big leaguer Charles Jackson, who played 12 seasons with the Astros and Rangers. In April, Justin batted .288, leading the Fisher Cats in stolen bases (six) and Tweets (too many to count).

“There’s a lot more to life than the game of baseball or going to work every day. You have to enjoy every single step of the way. It’s been very big for me to apply that to baseball. A positive mindset is what gets you to your dreams. If you don’t have that and a good work ethic, you’re going to come up short,” said Jackson, a supplemental first-round pick at 45th overall in 2007.

Signing bonus: $675,000. Memorable purchase: “All the video games stuff. I pretty much bought everything eventually.”

The other first-round picks and their memorable purchases:

LHP Brett Cecil – The University of Maryland product won 15 games for the Blue Jays in 2010, once taking a perfect game into the seventh inning against Cleveland. He was demoted to the minors at the end of 2012 spring training and assigned to Double-A New Hampshire to work on regaining velocity and command. Cecil was a supplemental first-round pick (38th overall) in 2007.

Signing bonus: $810,000. Memorable purchase: 2007 Lincoln Mark LT pickup truck.

RHP Chad Jenkins – After putting Kennesaw State University on the map with a super college career, Jenkins was Toronto’s first pick (20th overall) in the 2009 draft that featured Stephen Strasburg taken No. 1 by the Nationals. Jenkins, inching closer to the majors with every start, relies on a big-league sinker and also throws a plus-rated changeup.

The 6-foot-4 righty, who pitches Friday at Trenton, has been superb on the road, going 2-0 (0.75 ERA) in April. The workhorse threw a team-leading 27 2/3 inning in April, posting a 5.53 ERA.

Signing bonus: $1.35 million. Memorable purchase: 2007 Cadillac Escalade. “I drove it off a used car lot. I don’t buy new cars.”

RHP Deck McGuire – Drafted 11th overall out of Georgia Tech in 2010, McGuire continues to refine his delivery and work downhill, using a 6-foot-6 frame, long stride and reach. McGuire pitches to contact, rarely inducing a swing and miss, taking full advantage of his defense. In the series opener against Reading, McGuire retired 14 straight Phillies before pitching into the seventh inning.

Signing bonus: $2 million. Memorable purchase: 2010 GMC Yukon Denali.

RHP Clint Everts – The Montreal Expos selected Everts with their first pick (fifth overall) in the 2002 draft. The Texan has pitched in the minors for the Expos, Nationals, Mets and Blue Jays. He underwent Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery early in his pro career and made a strong return, eventually advancing to Triple-A with the Nationals.

Everts, a steady reliever a key member of the 2011 championship Fisher Cats, is the highest draft pick to ever play for the Fisher Cats. He quietly goes about his work and waits for a chance to pitch in the majors. He has thrown nine scoreless innings in relief this season.

“It’s baseball. You have to be doing really good at the right time. A lot of things have to fall into place for you,” Everts said.

Signing bonus: $2.5 million. Memorable purchase: cell phone.

“I never had a cell phone in high school. It wasn’t until I got drafted that I finally bought one,” Everts said. “Seriously, it was the best thing ever. Everyone had a cell phone except me.”

Staff writer Kevin Gray covers pro baseball for the New Hampshire Union Leader and New Hampshire Sunday News. His email address is kgray@unionleader.com.


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