Lying dazed on the grass in deep center field with a baseball nestled in the webbing of his glove, Nick Jackson could not hear the fans in Maloney Field’s wooden bleachers as they yelled out the distinct tune that precedes ESPN’s sports highlight videos.
SF State’s leadoff hitter would have another chance to hear the famous string of notes accompany his play from the April 17 baseball game against Chico State as it replayed on national television that night during ESPN’s SportsCenter programming.
Jackson’s dive eclipsed a slew of spectacular baseball catches at the MLB and Division I college levels on ESPN’s daily rankings. The catch severed an eighth-inning surge of offense from the visiting Chico State Wildcats and helped the Gators hold on to a 4-3 lead through the end of their California Collegiate Athletic Association division matchup.
“I was just running and thought ‘well this is the game’ so I had to lay out, and the ball just happened to get in my glove,” Jackson said. “It took me a second on the ground to recuperate myself and get up because I hit my head pretty hard on the way down.”
Joined by his roommates on their living room couch, Jackson tuned his TV to ESPN and watched himself pounce headfirst to make a kinetic marvel of a grab. The all-out sprint-turned-superman-dive ranked number two on SportsCenter’s Top 10 Plays of the Day segment, which attempts to assemble the 10 most impressive athletic maneuvers within a 24-hour period from contests across all sports, at every level.
“It was a great experience, kind of a bucket list thing,” Jackson said. “Getting to be on TV, especially on SportsCenter, is something that every athlete wants to do. I missed (the video) two different times before finally catching it at 11 p.m.”
While Jackson garnered national attention for SF State’s athletic program out on the field, senior broadcasting and electronic communication arts major Ashley Keehn sat on top of the Gators’ dugout, swinging her camera around to catch the action that would later be televised.
“After the game we had to move pretty quick to get everything done,” Keehn said. “I went up to our room and got the clip edited before we posted it online. ESPN told me to send them the link when we got in touch so I sent it over. We saw that it was on TV before we even got an email back.”
Keehn interns for SF State’s Sports Information Department under sports information director Joe Danahey as part of the BECA program. She is responsible for streaming Gator sporting events on BECA’s website and SF State’s athletics page. Her contribution of the clip to ESPN helped SF State’s athletic program gain well-deserved national prominence, according to Danahey.
“It means a lot to get on there, it’s unbelievable what it can do publicity-wise,” Danahey said. “We got the most hits we’ve ever gotten on the YouTube video. It’s not just publicity for us either. It gets recognition for the entire conference and NCAA Division II.
Jackson’s catch marked the second appearance by an SF State athlete on ESPN’s Top 10 during Danahey’s tenure as director of sports information. Decensae White’s buzzer-beating shot from three-quarters of the way down the court brought national light to the Gators basketball team in 2013.
“People always think that playing at the Division II level that we’re not playing at that kind of ball and we are, we’re right up there,”Danahey said.