DeSean Jackson = Mookie Betts? Rams receiver was once a sure-thing MLB prospect

DeSean Jackson played baseball at Poly
Long Beach Poly baseball player DeSean Jackson before a 2005 game against Lakewood High School at Blair Field in Long Beach.
(Robert Lachman / Los Angeles Times)

DeSean Jackson is ready to go deep when the Rams open their season against the Chicago Bears on Sunday night at SoFi Stadium.

Had the three-time Pro Bowl receiver opted to play baseball instead of football professionally, Jackson might have spent the last decade roaming the outfield at Dodger Stadium.

Growing up in the Crenshaw District, Jackson played multiple sports and excelled at them all. He was regarded as a top baseball prospect.


Logan White, senior advisor to the general manager of the San Diego Padres, was the Dodgers scouting director in 2005 when Jackson was a senior at Long Beach Poly High.

How will the Rams fare against the competition in the NFC West, considered to be the toughest division in the NFL.

Sept. 10, 2021

“Without a doubt he could have been a major league baseball player,” White said, “and if you really dreamed, I mean shoot, he could have been a Mookie Betts-type guy.”

Jackson said his late father, Bill Jackson, loved baseball, especially Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Roberto Clemente.

“My dad used to go crazy over Roberto Clemente,” Jackson said.

James McDonald was a senior at Long Beach Poly when Jackson was a freshman. In one game, McDonald recalled Jackson bunting the ball back to the pitcher — and beating the throw to first base.

“He had every single tool that you could possibly want,” said McDonald, who pitched in the major leagues for the Dodgers and the Pirates. “When I think of DeSean playing baseball, the one player that sticks in my mind is Mookie Betts.”


Jackson showcased his skills for baseball scouts while playing for the Milwaukee Brewers scout team and at the Area Code Games. He once played in a seven-on-seven passing league event and hit a home run at USC on the same day.

Playing for a Rams team hungry for Super Bowl success, Matthew Stafford faces enormous expectations as he tries to chisel out a new career chapter in L.A.

Sept. 10, 2021

“You just kind of looked at him and went, ‘Wow, it’s too bad he’s not going to play baseball,” said George Horton, former coach at Cal State Fullerton and Oregon. “There was a little bit of raw tools there that made you go back and envision the way Bo Jackson and Anthony Davis played baseball.

“It wasn’t necessarily the smoothest skill and swing and different things like that… The strength and explosion were stuff you can’t teach. And that’s what DeSean was. He was as quick as a cat.”

Had Jackson committed to baseball, he might have been a 2005 first-round draft pick, White said. Jackson said that several teams, including the Tampa Bay Rays, expressed interest.

“They wanted me to like give up football and I just couldn’t do it,” Jackson said. “I just looked at it like I can make it to the NFL a little faster than if I had went to MLB.”

Jackson said he has envisioned playing at Dodger Stadium.

“The money that these baseball players are getting, I’m like, ‘Man I picked the wrong sport,’” he said, laughing. “But I’m having a great career. I wouldn’t change it for the world.

“But, you know, I do think about like, ‘Dang, after I’m done, I might want to go pinch run or go play baseball for a little bit.’”