KANSAS CITY, Kan. — It’s easy to see what makes Jackson McClelland a special pitcher: a high-90s fastball, killer breaking stuff and plenty of experience at the highest level of the minor leagues.
But the new Kansas City Monarchs right-hander’s mental approach keeps things more low-key. He says he channels Kobe Bryant’s ‘Mamba Mentality’ on the mound.
“Kobe was always very focused, but he was always very mindful of everything he wanted to do,” McClelland said. “So that’s the same kind of thing I try to carry over.”
Jackson McClelland goes from throwing high 90s heat to dropping in an 87-mph breaking ball. Dirty. pic.twitter.com/vrXx9M7kZs
— Ryan Di Francesco (@RyanDifrancesco) August 27, 2019
McClelland, 28, officially signed with the Monarchs Tuesday. A former Blue Jays and Cubs prospect, he most recently pitched at the Triple-A level with the Iowa Cubs in 2021.
He spent 2022 outside of baseball, including earning a certificate in commercial real estate from Cornell. Still, he felt a calling to return to the sport he loved.
“It really didn’t feel like baseball was done for me yet,” McClelland said. “I really missed being on the field; being around the guys.”
Free agent Jackson McClelland shoved in Live ABs today, sitting 95+ 🔥 pic.twitter.com/I6FkCDeOfd
— Driveline Baseball (@DrivelineBB) August 29, 2021
Monarchs manager Joe Calfapietra had already reached out to McClelland offering him a spot on the team.
“He was a guy that was on our radar as early as the 2021 season,” Calfapietra said. “We didn’t give up on him.”
But for McClelland, the best recruitment pitch might have come from a former Monarch.
“I know some guys like [former MLB pitcher] Justin Shafer who had played for the Monarchs previously, and they only had good things to say,” McClelland said. “The Monarchs seemed like the right fit, the best timing, the best place to be as far as getting back on the field.”
A native of Cherry Valley, California, McClelland played three years of college ball at Pepperdine in Malibu, where he posted a 2.81 career ERA. He made two NCAA tournaments with the Waves, in 2014 and 2015.
Drafted by the Blue Jays in the 15th round in 2015, McClelland had a breakout season in 2017. He earned a 1.34 ERA that season between Class A Lansing and High-A Dunedin, and played in the prestigious Arizona Fall league later that year.
Jackson McClelland hit 99 mph in the 8th (the Hartford radar gun is probably a bit slow, we've seen him hit 101 mph in NH)…
But it was the soft stuff that got him 2 Ks in the inning: pic.twitter.com/80hFQouq2P
— New Hampshire Fisher Cats (@FisherCats) April 12, 2019
“I couldn’t be more excited to get out on the baseball field and experience life in Kansas City with a first-class organization,” McClelland said. “I’m chomping at the bit to play some baseball.”
About the American Association
The American Association of Professional Baseball played its first season in 2006. It is a professional partner league that is affiliated with Major League Baseball but not specifically with any one team. The league consists of 12 teams located primarily in the Midwest and the South of the United States. Its season runs from May to September and features players who are looking to showcase their talents for a chance to be signed by a major league team.
About the Kansas City Monarchs
The Kansas City Monarchs are a professional baseball team in the American Association, an MLB Partner League. This year, they are celebrating their 20th year of baseball in Kansas City, Kansas. In 2020, the team partnered with the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum and changed their name from the T-Bones to the Monarchs in honor of the legendary Negro League franchise that played from 1920 to 1965. The Monarchs won ten Negro American League championships and two Negro League World Series championships in their history. The team featured numerous notable players over the years, including Hall of Famers Satchel Paige, Jackie Robinson, Ernie Banks, and Buck O’Neil.