Jackson Hurst is missing baseball.
With his senior season cut short before it really got started due to the global outbreak of COVID-19 is finding ways to occupy his time.
He even got a job.
“I’m working at Walmart now. Since I don’t have sports at the moment, mom and dad made me get a job,” Hurst said. “I’m completely done with school except for my AP exams.”
Baseball has played a role in Hurst’s life since he was seven or eight years old. He started hitting when he was young. His parents signed him up at the Van Buren Boys & Girls Club and he hasn’t stopped playing since.
Except for this year.
“American Legion is going to let us play this summer,” Hurst said. “It may not be organized games. It may be pick up games, but we could still play some this summer. Oh my goodness… I have missed baseball so bad.”
Hurst has played other sports including football throughout high school. He played basketball in middles school and spent the last two seasons on the cheerleading squad.
But for Hurst, it’s always been about baseball.
“It’s non-stop fun. For me, it’s completely different from the other sports. It’s a mind game and I love how it gets competitive,” said Hurst. “It gets competitive among my teammates, but it’s a friendly competition. It’s competitive against the other team.
“My dad inspires me as an athlete. He’s been my coach the most often as I was growing up,” said Hurst. “He coached me to be a leader. He had two rules and it has carried me further in life than anything: “Work hard at everything you do and respect everybody who teaches you along the way.”
It’s the same advice he would give any young athlete as well. Hurst said, “it has served me well not only on the field but off the field as well.”
Hurst grew up in Van Buren. His parents remained active with baseball. Hurst’s mom runs the concession stand at the Field of Dreams for the Pointers and his dad is the announcer.
To get ready for a game Hurst would hit a round off a tee and some from a machine. “Normally, I like to listen to Christian music, it helps calms me down and then tape up both of my wrists,” he said.
Hurst has been a starter for the Pointers since his sophomore season as the designated hitter every year. Hurst hits in the middle of the lineup during that time when Van Buren had some “pretty good teams. So that tells you what kind of hitter he is.”
“Jackson is a big strong kid who can hit for power… a lot of extra-base hits,” said new Pointer head coach Luke Weatherford, who has been an assistant for the past 12 years. Weatherford took over the program shortly after the retirement of David Loyd. “He’s a great kid, fun to be around, and always doing the right thing.”
“If I have a bad play it bothers me for a bit, but I try to shake it off and be encouraging to others if they have a bad play,” said Hurst. “But if I have a bad game… it’s practice and practice. After one bad game, I stayed for another two hours and kept hitting.”
Hurst said he was also disappointed not to play for Loyd in his final season.
“We had a great start and our only loss was a walk-off. We were looking pretty good,” said Hurst. “Our senior leadership was really good. We totally bought into what the coaches wanted for us. We worked hard this season. It’s been a real grind since August. Our hitting started slow but it and our pitching was going to dominate. We were going to go far this year.
This senior season… it’s been heartbreaking. I love both of the coaches and both were a big impact on my life. I feel bad for Coach Loyd not having his last year as he wanted.”
He said his best game was during his sophomore year when he went 3 for 4 with two home runs and a single.
“The best game I’ve ever been a part of was probably at the state tournament against Cabot,” Hurst said. “I was a sophomore and it was a crazy back-and-forth kind of game. It was the most intense baseball I have ever played.”
Hurst is still aiming for Arkansas Tech. He plans to major in biology and following his father’s footsteps to become a dentist. Hurst said he has been given a preferred walk-on status for the Wonder Boys baseball team, but with schools and colleges adopting different rules because of the coronavirus outbreak he’s uncertain what the next step is for him.
“I’m trying to get everything worked out. I’m not sure if I can contact the coach or if he can contact me,” Hurst said. “They didn’t get to see me play this year so it’s just trying to figure out the next step.”
His next step may be playing some abbreviated summer baseball with the Fort Smith American Legion team, The Sportsmen. Hurst said he’s already been in contact with the coach and while they don’t know exactly what their schedule would look like, they are planning to get some games in before school starts up again in the fall.
Like most ballplayers, Hurst has big dreams and would welcome the opportunity to play at Fenway Park or Busch Stadium.
“I love playing at our place [the Field of Dreams], but the coolest place I’ve played in was at the Naturals stadium,” said Hurst. “We played Har-Ber there during my junior and sophomore year. It’s just a cool ballpark to play in.
Fun Questions with Jackson Hurst
What is your biggest fear? Snakes. No question, all the way.
If you could have any superpower what would it be? My first thought strength and second thought is invisibility… probably strength.
If you could have any kind of pet what would you want? Polar bears are cool.
What would you be rather doing instead of being quarantined at home? Hunting and fishing and being outdoors.
Biggest pet peeve? People turning up the volume and don’t put on an even number. I don’t know why, but that just aggravates me. My dad thinks I’m crazy. Sometimes he’ll do it without thinking and there are times he does it to get under my skin. He thinks he’s the funniest person.
Do you have any annoying habits? I like to disagree with whatever people say. I do it to my brother… I’m sure he gets annoyed with me sometimes.
Who is your inspiration? My dad.
What is the first thing you’ll do when this crisis or mess is all over? I’m probably going to Raising Cane’s or to Waffle House just to sit and eat with my friends.
Have you gotten caught up on any television shows or reading? I started rewatching my childhood cartoons, like “Avatar: The Last Airbender.”