Eddie Jackson was playing at Alabama when he first met the Tuscaloosa kid whom the White Sox drafted in the first round in 2013. When shortstop Tim Anderson came back to the college town to work out in the offseason, the future Bears safety was doing the same during the football season.
“He’s very cool,” Jackson said, “down to earth.”
Jackson has been able to follow Anderson’s career from up close ever since the Bears drafted him two years ago. He threw out the first pitch at Guaranteed Rate Field on Jackie Robinson Day in April — and Anderson had three hits in a victory against the hated Royals.
“He’s bringing the swag to the baseball right now, and it’s fun to watch,” Jackson said Saturday night. “To watch him and all the success he’s having — shout out to him. I really like watching those guys right now.”
Take it from one of the architects of the Bears’ touchdown celebrations: There’s a place for Anderson’s bat-flipping flair even in a stodgy baseball culture.
“It just gives you a confidence — it’s a confidence-builder,” Jackson said. “When your team sees you out there making plays, and they see you out there swaggin’ things up and having fun, they just fall in line. You know they want to do the same thing. That just helps you bring confidence.”
Jackson was talking baseball — and this week’s Crosstown Showdown — while standing behind the plate at Boomers Stadium in Schaumburg. He was hosting his first celebrity softball game, with proceeds going to Goodwill and his own Remain to Reach foundation, which provides resources for teenagers looking to rebuild their lives after being jailed.
Outside linebacker Khalil Mack, guard Cody Whitehair, punter Pat O’Donnell and myriad rookies were among those to play in the game, which pitted the offense against the defense. Defensive end Jonathan Bullard won the home-run derby undercard, hitting three balls over the temporary fences moved in from the baseball walls.
Players were expected to scatter for vacation after the game. The Bears’ veterans ended minicamp Thursday and won’t gather again, formally, until training camp begins in late July in Bourbonnais.
Unlike quarterback Mitch Trubisky, who struggles to turn off the football part of his brain, Jackson is ready to unwind on a vacation to Jamaica.
Defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano told his players that he wants them to watch at least an hour of film a day while away, though. He never wants them to be too far from the sport mentally.
“Come back and still watch film and stay on top of everything,” Jackson said. “Just take care of your body. Relax a little bit. Don’t lose that taste for football.”
Jackson detailed the motivation that will follow him — and his teammates — throughout their summer break.
“Everything — how short, and how far, we came,” he said. “From the losing record to the winning record. How short we came, with the first-round playoff game with the field goal. Right now we just want to build off everything and let that be the fuel to our fire. We plan on taking this whole thing.”
That confidence permeated Halas Hall during the team’s offseason program. It coursed through the stands Saturday night, too, as fans posed for pictures and begged for autographs from the players. They filled about half the lower section of the minor-league baseball stadium.
“The vibe is there,” Jackson said. “That will always be there. That’s not changing. You come in and you see everybody on one page, and [they] want to get things done and want to win. That will always be a great vibe.”