‘I’ve never had more fun’

Jackson Olson feels like he is living in a dream.

It’s not the dream he envisioned, being drafted by a college graduate Major League Baseball team. The path he has taken to get to where he is certainly wasn’t planned, but Olson said he wouldn’t change any of that.

Olson has more than half a million followers on TikTok, another 120,000 on Instagram, just completed an MLB stadium tour where he did everything from throwing out first pitches to sampling all the food the stadiums had to offer and the Friday night he will make his debut for the Savannah Bananas in a game broadcast nationally on ESPN2.

Not bad for a guy who was delivering groceries for Instacart a little over a year ago.

“I didn’t have a plan, but I knew I wanted to try something different. At first, I was just having fun. I never thought it would come to this,” said Olson, a 2016 graduate of New Milford High School. “Basically, I started this journey a year ago and everything that has happened since then is beyond anything I could have imagined. My parents didn’t get it at first, but they had faith that she would get something out of this, but none of us imagined that she would get to where she is now.”

Olson is now about to play his first game with the Bananas, where he can marry his love of baseball with his passion for creating social media content for younger baseball players and fans.

Olson was originally in the path of many highly regarded young baseball players.

After a solid junior year playing at the University of Hartford, Olson played one season in the Cape Cod League for the Hyannis Harbor Hawks.

His success there led to the Arizona Diamondbacks offering him a contract.

@jacksonolson_ Replying to @patrickjudge Will part 3 happen this year…? #mlb #foodie ♬ GREEDY x TREASURE – conradrocha

Olson turned him down, hoping to return for his senior season and take a chance on the MLB Draft.

Then the COVID-19 pandemic took over, the draft was shortened to five rounds, and many players like Olson were left in the lurch.

“COVID hit and everything went haywire,” Olson said. “I transferred to Stetson where I played my senior year of college baseball. While doing that, I was also posting more on social media and realized that I loved it too.”

He was undrafted after a year at Stetson and thought his baseball career might be over, but he embraced his newfound love of creating content in the form of videos dubbed with movie quotes, locker room skits and more.

@jacksonolson_ Trust yourself and trust your journey, it’s always up to you #mystory #baseball ♬ Dandelions (slowed + reverb) – Ruth B.

His videos gained more and more attention and soon millions of people were watching them on multiple platforms.

After playing his last game at Stetson, he needed a job and took a job for Instacart delivering groceries. He continued to make videos about his new work, which kept bringing more people to his feeds.

Someone who works for Major League Baseball saw his videos and contacted Olson about becoming a member of MLB’s first creator class in 2021.

Olson was hired along with 10 other people to create unique baseball-related content on TikTok in an effort to reach a younger audience.

As brand ambassadors for MLB, Creator Class posted videos that garnered over 45 million views in just a few months.

@jacksonolson_ 3 months of non-stop fun… and my favorite job so far #mlb #baseball original sound – Roblox acc

Olson was able to attend MLB games and allowed fans an up-close look on and off the field.

The creators were asked to make 12 videos, but Olson went further, posting 75 videos and wowing the rest of the team.

“I knew I had to take advantage,” Olson said. “It’s like working in baseball. If you want to improve, you go to the cage and do 1000 hits. Social media is no different, it’s all routine and the more you put into it, the better the results. You put everything you have into this game, but I realized last year that you also have to have fun.”

Olson credits Hartford baseball coach Justin Blood with lighting a fire beneath him that continues to fuel him to this day.

“Nobody was ever tougher on me than Justin Blood,” Olson said. “He saw something in me and he wanted to push me. He taught me that every repetition counts. He wanted to make me better. Bonus Replays are the same as Bonus TikToks. It’s the same mindset, that if I outperform everyone at work, I’ll be successful. There is always someone who wants to take your place, don’t let him.

That led to Olson being hired by a ticket company called Gametime, which offered to send him across the country to rank MLB ballparks and post videos.

On that trip, Olson tried just about every food offered at various stadiums, though he had to slow down after noticing he was packing on the pounds.

“I ate everything at first and went from 185 to 195 in two weeks,” Olson said. “Once he got to the stadiums on the East Coast, he would usually just take a bite and then give the rest away. Even though some of the stuff was so good, he had to finish it.”

I was doing much more than eating. Olson was able to experience ballparks in a way few others do.

He threw out the first pitch in several games, appeared on the jumbo-trons to cheer on fans, played pregame in the outfield of some stadiums, and even slid down Bernie the Brewer’s slide at American Family Field, home of the Brewers. from Milwaukee.

Olson said riding the slide was definitely the highlight of her trip.

However, something else happened in Milwaukee that would have an even bigger impact on Olson.

“After I threw out the first pitch at the Brewers game, some young fans were waiting to get my autograph when I walked off the field, which was nice,” Olson said. “Then when I got to the concourse I saw a big line of people and I thought maybe an old brewer was signing autographs. The security guard had his arms crossed and was staring at me and he told me that all these kids were lined up to see me. While I was signing autographs and taking photos, a guy in his 45s said to me ‘who the hell are you?’ and a kid in the line told him ‘he makes baseball fun’. I almost cried realizing I’m influencing little kids in baseball like this.”

@jacksonolson_ The question is… will I see the last 10 stadiums this year? #mlb #baseball sunroof – Nicky you’re and dazy

For the record, Olson rated San Francisco’s Oracle Park as his favorite stadium.

Through content creation, Olson had rediscovered his passion for the game.

“I love this game. It can get away from you and you can lose your love for it, but what I realized from meeting people in all these ballparks is that baseball is supposed to be fun,” Olson said. “You never know when it’s over and you’ve got to get as much fun out of the game as you can. More than one 12-year-old has said to me, ‘You made me love baseball again.’ Baseball is so romantic.”

With his love for the game rekindled, Olson received an unexpected call from the Savannah Bananas.

For those who don’t know, The Bananas play a different brand of baseball geared towards entertaining fans with players dancing at games, people taking turns at bat on stilts or with bats on fire, and rules for a fast-paced style developed. to attract more fans. , especially the younger ones.

ESPN recently announced that it would air a documentary series called “Bananaland” after the minor league baseball show, which is played in the Coastal Plain League.

The series will premiere on Friday, August 19, and although Olson was not with the crew when the series was filmed last year, he will be part of season 2.

But Olson will play for the Bananas on ESPN2, which will air its first game at 7 pm before the show premieres.

ESPN2 and ESPN+ will also broadcast games live on August 20, 26, 27 and September 2 and 3.

“I can’t believe I’m going to play for the Bananas on a national broadcast,” Olson said. “I kept posting more and more on social media and loved it. Bananas will now allow me to post TikToks during games. Everything is coming together. Being able to play baseball but also continue doing social networks. The owner (Jesse Cole) is a great visionary and it’s great what they are doing there. I am very excited to be a part of this.”

The Bananas are also incorporating Olson’s food reviews into the game.

Olson will play third base, and on occasion a table will be set up near third base with different foods from the stadium for Olson to sample. So there’s a possibility that Olson is on ESPN2 eating food at third base, which he still can’t fully fathom.

Olson said the game is played at a faster pace than anything he’s ever experienced and he’s also learning things he never thought would be a part of baseball practice.

“It’s so fast that if you look down at your cleats, the next pitch has already been thrown,” Olson said. “This week I’ve been working hard on the ‘Greatest Showman’ dance that I’ll be doing in costume before an at-bat. I’ve never had more fun playing baseball.”

sericson@stamfordadvocate.com; @EricsonSports

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