For the first time in franchise history, the Washington Wild Things have had a player purchased by the Pittsburgh Pirates’ organization. Tuesday, the Wild Things announced the Pirates have purchased the contract of 2017 Frontier League All Star Game MVP and outfielder Bralin Jackson.
“Bralin was a driving force, on and off the field, behind a season where our explosive offense pushed us into the playoffs,” said general manager Steven Zavacky. “His impact on our roster will carry on and better prepare players for a championship run in 2018. We wish Bralin the best of luck with the Pirates and hope our fans and Pittsburgh baseball fans alike follow his journey like we will.”
Jackson becomes the fourth outfielder from the Frontier League to be purchased by a big-league organization in 2017, joining Southern Illinois’ Brandon Cummins, Schaumburg’s Daniel Hoy and River City’s Jimmy Kerigan.
From the Wild Things’ perspective, three players (all pitchers) that have played for the Wild Things have appeared on a big-league roster: Vidal Nuño, Tom Cochran and Chris Smith. Having a player’s contract purchased is nothing new for the organization, either. Jackson is the 36th player to have his contract purchased in the team’s history, which is over two per year on average. Jackson is the first since pitchers Zac Grotz and Trevor Foss were purchased by the Dodgers and Indians, respectively, in 2016.
Drafted in the 5th round of the 2012 MLB Amateur Draft from Raytown South High School (Raytown, Missouri), Jackson played five affiliated-ball seasons before his release from the Tampa Bay Rays organization. During his time in that farm system, Jackson made it as far as Advanced-A ball with the Charlotte Stone Crabs, and hit .254 with 10 home runs and 109 RBI collectively. He had 53 steals and 75 total extra-base hits in his time with the Rays.
In 2017 with Washington, Jackson hit .294 with 17 doubles, three triples and 16 home runs. His home run total was tied for the fifth-best in the league, while Jackson’s 76 RBI ranked second most in the league last season behind only Evansville’s Jeff Gardner.
“When we first acquired Bralin we received such positive feedback on the character of the person we were acquiring. With Tampa Bay, Bralin’s 2016 season was cut short but we undoubtedly saw upside in his game,” said Zavacky. “Bralin was one of the most complete players in the Frontier League in 2017 and deserved the MVP consideration he received.”
Jackson said his time in Washington helped to better prepare him for Spring Training with the Pirates’ organization, and that he has learned several things about what it takes to be a professional.
“My time in Washington was a big growth period for me as a baseball player. It helped me learn a lot about myself and even more about the game,” said Jackson. “I know the importance of taking care of your body and being an all-around professional.”
He’s keeping goals for himself, he said, but is also trying to stay relaxed and enjoy the game.
“[Some of my goals are] to build from my success in Washington, grow even more as a baseball player and get one step closer to reach my goal of becoming a big leaguer,” said Jackson. “[I learned to] slow the game down and enjoy the process of growing, instead of fighting against it.”
Speaking to his time in Washington, Jackson was very thankful, as well as complimentary of the help the organization gave him in getting back to affiliated ball.
“My time in Washington was great. I couldn’t have asked for better teammates and coaches,” said Jackson. “We had a great family atmosphere and it translated every night onto the field. Knowing the Pirates signed me makes my time in Washington even better, because the Pirates have such a strong impact on the city, and I can’t wait to be a part of that.”
One of the things the Frontier League prides itself on is its ability to move players back into, or to affiliated baseball. It’s no different for the Wild Things, or any team in the league. Since May of 2016, the Frontier League has had 56 players purchased by big-league organizations. Jackson is the 57th, the third in the off-season and the first since October 30.
“Our organization is in place to give players like Bralin a platform for MLB teams. A career in professional baseball is a road with many hurdles and detours,” said Zavacky. “We always look to promote our prospects to systems where they can continue to grow. It is quite remarkable that we hosted three future major leaguers, and Bralin marks the 36th player selected overall.”
He added, “We will continue to work toward our goal of winning championships, promoting players to MLB clubs and creating great baseball memories. Not all of our players will get this next level opportunity, but every year we enjoy hearing that their season playing in Washington goes down as the most fun they had in baseball.”
This is the first time the Pirates’ organization has purchased a player from the Frontier League since 2016, when the organization bought the contracts of two catchers and an infielder from the league throughout the calendar year.
The Pirates have made independent-ball purchases in the past that have paid off for the team. Most recently, right-handed pitcher John Holdzkom, who had played for two teams in the American Association among other Indy-ball organizations, was a contributor out of the bullpen for the Pirates in 2014.
Jackson offered some overall thoughts as he takes the next step in his career.
“I want to thank God; He was with me every day. [I want to thank] my family for their support. My teammates made it all worth it [and] I made lifelong friends in such a short time. My coaches, Banger [Gregg Langbehn] and Provo [Tim Provenzano], reminded us to have fun with this game and allowed us to be ourselves. Brittany Miller [the team’s trainer] kept us healthy on the field and would do anything for us so we could play the game to the best of our ability. Her efforts never went unnoticed. I’m grateful to the man behind the scenes, Tony [Buccilli], for bringing me along to the Washington family and allowing me to play the game I love so dearly.”
The Washington Wild Things are a professional baseball team in the Frontier League that plays in Washington, PA. The Wild Things open the season May 11 at Evansville, with the 2018 home opener scheduled for Tuesday, May 15. Season ticket packages, with new benefits, are available, as well as other promotions going on throughout the off-season. Call the box office at 724-250-9555 for inquiries and purchases.