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Jackson Having No Seconds at Berkeley

Freshman from El Camino Real, who turned down chance to become pro, enjoys college life, except for the dorm food.

February 18, 2001|ERIC SONDHEIMER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

After six months of college life in Berkeley, Conor Jackson has adjusted well to doing his laundry, cleaning up his dormitory room and making sure he wakes up on time for classes.

"It's pretty exciting," said the former El Camino Real High third baseman. "I love my parents, but I like being on my own."

Except when it comes to eating dorm food.

Maybe that's the reason Jackson rushed home to Woodland Hills on Friday night so he could devour his favorite home-cooked meal of chicken-fried steak made by his mother, Jana.

Jackson is in town for a three-game series against Loyola Marymount that ends today. He has started all nine games as a freshman for California and is batting ..250.

"He's hit about eight line-drive outs," Coach David Esquer said. "We've put him in a tough spot because he's batting third, but he's performed well."

Jackson was drafted in the 31st round by the Cleveland Indians in June but never seriously considered signing despite being selected City co-player of the year as a senior.

His early college experiences only reinforce his belief he made the right decision.

"Oh yeah, I can't emphasize that enough," he said. "There's no regrets--none. If I would have jumped into [the minor leagues], it would have been extremely overwhelming. I think I would have adapted, but you can take steps to get there in college. I love the college atmosphere."

Jackson was part of the Golden Bears' recruiting class that included outfielder Brian Horwitz from Crespi, catcher Spencer Wyman from Camarillo and shortstop Jeff Dragicevich from Westlake. Horwitz has started six games and is batting .333.

The Los Angeles contingent doesn't let the Northern California natives get carried away with a "Beat L.A." mentality.

"We all kind of stick together, with L.A. pride," Jackson said.

Jackson is beginning to feel some Hollywood glitter as more people learn his father, John, is one of the stars of the CBS drama, "JAG."

"The whole team gives me a hard time," he said. "They call me, 'JAG.' "

Jackson led the Golden Bears in hitting during fall exhibition games and continues to learn from Esquer, a second-year coach and former Pepperdine assistant.

"It's everything I expected and more," Jackson said. "In high school, you learn the fundamentals. With Esquer, he teaches all the little details that are a necessity to the game."

Jackson has little free time among school, studying, practice and games. When his parents came to Berkeley to watch him in a game, they had dinner and offered to take him to a movie afterward. He declined, saying he was too tired and needed to sleep.

So goes life as a college athlete.

"It's all time management," Jackson said. "Either you do it good or do it bad. It gets tiring, but it's kind of your life."

Jackson gets questions from teammates asking him what it was like playing at Dodger Stadium.

He made three appearances there during his El Camino Real days.

"I say, 'It's nothing special, just a bigger field,' " he said. "They know I'm lying through my teeth."

Jackson will return for a three-game series against Long Beach State next weekend, then won't be back in Los Angeles until a three-game series against UCLA on May 4-6.

His mother might have to send him a special delivery of chicken-fried steak to hold him over.

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