HOUSTON -- Brett Jackson celebrated his 19th birthday in August 2007 by going to a Cubs game at Wrigley Field, calling it one of the best days he's had. The young outfielder now is part of those same Cubs and hopes to someday play at Wrigley.
The Cubs selected Jackson, 20, with the 31st pick in the first round of the First-Year Player Draft on Tuesday.
"I'm a big Cubs fan," Jackson said. "I'm honored to be with this organization. Honestly, truly, I was hoping to be with the Cubs the whole time and couldn't believe it when my name was read."
After his freshman year at UC Berkeley, Jackson played in the North Woods League in Wisconsin, and some friends took him to Wrigley for his birthday party on Aug. 2 that year.
"I was somewhat overwhelmed just walking in," Jackson said of the Cubs' home park. "You can feel the history. I remember just walking in and being wowed. It was one of the better birthdays of my life, I must say.
"Even before that, I've supported the Cubs and the history and the tradition of the team. I love the mascot -- once a bear, always a bear. I'm proud to be a Cub today and looking forward to helping the organization in the future."
A leadoff hitter and center fielder at the University of California, Jackson is a left-handed hitter with above-average speed. He's the third position player taken in four Drafts by Cubs scouting director Tim Wilken. Last year was the only time the Cubs and Wilken switched gears and chose a pitcher, taking Andrew Cashner from Texas Christian University in the first round.
"We're thrilled to be able to acquire a player like Brett Jackson," Wilken said Tuesday. "He plays the game hard and has a chance to be a true center fielder."
Jackson batted .326 with a .416 on-base percentage, .568 slugging percentage and 11 stolen bases in 14 attempts over 46 games in his junior season at California. He went 4-for-16 in a recent series against Oregon with a triple and double.
"He has quite a few attributes that I like," Wilken said. "First of all, the ability to play center field. We feel he has an average or above-average throwing arm. He's an athletic center fielder, and we feel he's a guy who's a plus runner and has a chance to have some power down the line."
The Cubs had earmarked Jackson but weren't sure he'd be available this late in the First-Year Player Draft. The outfielder was ranked by Baseball America as the second-best overall athlete among all available college players in the 2009 Draft class. He was named to the All-Pac 10 team after his stellar junior season.
"I think he's got a chance to be a front-line center fielder and everyday player and a chance to hit with some power and hit with average," Wilken said.
In three seasons at California, Jackson batted .303 with 91 runs scored, 25 doubles, 11 triples, 12 homers and 85 RBIs in 152 games.
He still has things to work on, such as his baserunning, and said he isn't afraid of work. Asked if he can advance quickly through the system, Jackson said, "That's the plan."
An aggressive hitter, he impressed Wilken when he played in the Cape Cod League, batting both leadoff and third.
"I have the ability to drive in runs and also the ability to get on base and create some," Jackson said. "I think my bat influences the lineup and I think that will work itself out in the future."
He hopes that future includes games at Wrigley Field soon.
Round 2 -- David LeMahieu, IF, Louisiana State University: The Cubs already have two LSU players on the 25-man roster in Ryan Theriot and Mike Fontenot, who may have provided a scouting report for this Tigers sophomore. According to scouting reports, LeMahieu has a solid approach at the plate and good baseball instincts. The 79th player taken overall, he has primarily played shortstop. This season, LeMahieu hit .360 in 35 games with a .456 on-base percentage and .520 slugging percentage. "I've met him before," said Fontenot, who worked out with the LSU infielder in Arizona. "We've been keeping tabs on him over the last few years."
Round 3 -- Austin Kirk, LHP, Owasso High School (Okla.): Kirk had a stellar senior season for Owasso, which has ranked among the nation's most consistent baseball programs. In early May, he threw his second no-hitter of the season, striking out 13 of 17 batters in a regional game over Jenks. Kirk went 9-1 with an 0.45 ERA on the mound and batted .408 with 50 RBIs. He worked through the winter with former Ram Cory Patton, who plays in the Blue Jays' organization, on improving his offense. He also worked with Dallas Trahern, another former Ram who is playing in the Minor Leagues.