Jackson Holliday fighting for an Opening Day spot, ready to play second base, & more: “I have a chance to make the team. That’s my goal” (Exclusive)

OriolesOrioles’ Jackson Holliday was the overall #1 MLB Draft pick in 2022

From the moment Jackson Holliday’s name was called as the first overall pick in the 2022 MLB amateur draft, his expedited clock to the big leagues began ticking.

Youthful looks belie immense talent: a combination of a tremendous work ethic and excellent genes. His father, Matt, was a seven-time All Star and spent 15 seasons in the majors, primarily as a left fielder with the Colorado Rockies and St. Louis Cardinals.

Holliday skyrocketed through the prep rankings in his senior year at Stillwater (Okla.) High School, where he posted an unfathomable 2.141 OPS. He was ticketed to play shortstop for his uncle, Josh Holliday, at Oklahoma State University, before the Baltimore Orioles swooped in, drafted him first and signed him to an $8.19 million bonus, largest ever for a high school player.

He played 20 games in pro ball as an 18-year-old in 2022, posting a .911 OPS. That was an appetizer for 2023, when Holliday played at four levels, finishing with 18 games at Triple-A Norfolk while only age 19. For the year, he slashed .323/.422/.499 with 12 homers and 24 steals while playing strong defense at shortstop, second and third.

He entered this year as baseball’s top prospect and Orioles general manager Mike Elias said before spring training began that Holliday would have a chance to make the Opening Day, 26-man roster. Holliday has seized that opportunity, shaking off a slow start to consistently pound the ball this Grapefruit League season.

Jackson Holliday interview (Exclusive)

“I have a chance to make the team. That’s my goal and I don’t want to fall short of that,” Holliday said. “But I think if I do (fall short), it’s still a pretty good spot to be in. If you make the team, (it’s) as a 20-year-old on the best team in the American League. If you don’t, you are 20 and going to Triple-A with a chance to make the team whenever. So, I’m in a really good spot.”

Holliday spoke at length about his big-league dreams, about his Rookie of the Year aspirations, about growing up in MLB clubhouses, about his highly touted brother, about another immensely talented Jackson and about his offseason marriage to his high school sweetheart.

Editor’s note: The following one-on-one has been edited and condensed.

How different is this spring camp for you compared to last year’s when you were starting to get to know everyone?

Jackson Holliday:

It’s different. I’m still really excited to be here and excited to be around these guys and the big-league staff and learn from them. I feel more comfortable with them now. My goal is to play in the big leagues, and if it’s not Opening Day, then it is as fast as possible after that. So, yeah, it has been a lot of fun and I’m trying to enjoy it and learn as much as I can as fast as I can and try to put myself into the best position to make the team.

Is your goal this spring simply making the Opening Day roster?

Jackson Holliday:

Pretty much. To make the team, and to help the team win at any level, whether it is on defense or at the plate. That is something I think I bring as a player, a winning mindset and being a winning player. And I just want to show them that and play my game. Talking to Westy (infielder Jordan Westburg), he was in a similar situation to me last year and his advice is just, ‘Go out and play and let the rest take care of itself.’

You are 20. You have been in pro ball for fewer than two years. You’ve made tremendous strides. That said, would it be a disappointment if you began the year at Triple A?

Jackson Holliday:

Probably a little bit. I think looking back to this time last year I don’t think I ever would have imagined that I would be here in this situation, so I think it’s a win-win no matter what. I’m just trying not to put too much pressure on myself.

You’re viewed long-term as a shortstop, but to crack this team now you may play a lot of second base. How is the transition going and how is it different from shortstop?

Jackson Holliday:

It’s been good. I think I’m improving every day, which I am happy about. I think the main difference is the double-play feed. The shortstop throws come from your left and at second base you go a lot to your right, so the footwork is slightly different. The throw to first isn’t really a problem, just being an athlete and throwing it over there. But the feed to second is important and so that’s kind of what we’ve been hammering. I feel like I have made some improvements and I’m happy where I’m at.

Jackson Holliday of the Baltimore Orioles rounds second base after hitting a tripleJackson Holliday of the Baltimore Orioles rounds second base after hitting a triple
If the season were to start today, and the Orioles said you are our primary second baseman, would you be comfortable with that?

Jackson Holliday:

Absolutely. I think if that’s the position I have a chance to play in the big leagues and play a lot of games at, I’m gonna take it and run with it. It would be an unbelievable opportunity. Obviously, I’ve got lots to learn at that position to get better, but I do feel comfortable where I am and I’m just excited for the rest of these spring training games to get more comfortable and get even more work over there.

What was it like in your first full year trying to remain focused while succeeding at four different levels?

Jackson Holliday:

Just going to the field every day and having great teammates and having great coaches and just being able to play my game and enjoy it, it was easy. Easy to come to the field, easy to have fun on the field and I was able to have success. I think coming to big-league spring training last year and being around these guys and being able to play at a high level here against guys that are at Double A and Triple A and in the big leagues, made the lower levels seem pretty easy.

Despite your age, you fit in well with this team. How have those relationships blossomed?

Jackson Holliday:

Being able to go through all four levels, I like to say that I was teammates with almost everybody in this organization last year, which is kind of crazy to think about. But I think having a relationship with all these guys from last year and being able to build on top of that this year has been great and easy. The Orioles have done a great job of drafting and signing good people as well as really good players.

You are the No. 1 overall prospect in baseball and are being touted as a potential Rookie of the Year candidate. What do those things mean to you?

Jackson Holliday:

It’s pretty neat. It doesn’t really mean much in the grand scheme of things, but it’s pretty cool to be thought of as the No. 1 overall prospect and have a chance to win the Rookie of the Year. That’s something I have my heart set on, just winning Rookie of the Year and helping our team win. If it happens, that’s great. But if we can make it to the playoffs and play for a chance to win the World Series, I’m happy with that, too. That’s the main goal. I’m not trying to go out there and win the Rookie of the Year and not help the team win. I’m trying not to be selfish. I want to be a team player, and everything will take care of itself.

Teammates Adley Rutschman and Gunnar Henderson are former No. 1 overall prospects. Henderson won Rookie of the Year and Rutschman finished second. Do those accomplishments drive you?

Jackson Holliday:

Absolutely. You want to be as close as possible. I’ve been trying to chase those guys and be the No. 1 prospect to be able to share that with them. And I think it’s a pretty good testament for our organization if I could possibly win that or come in second or third. I think it would be pretty neat to be able to share that with those guys. I mean, I couldn’t imagine having two better guys to lean on and help me do that.

You’ve been linked by your name, age and talent with Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Jackson Chourio? What do you know about him and his game?

Jackson Holliday:

I’ve heard really good things about him. You see the highlights on Instagram or Twitter (X) and it’s a pretty special talent. And I know we’re pretty close in age (Chourio turned 20 this week). His swing and his ability to drive the ball all over the field is pretty special. I don’t know him personally but watching videos of him and kind of interacting with him at the Futures Game, he seems like a really good person and someone that is pretty easy to root for. So, I think he is a pretty special player, and he has a pretty cool name, too.

Chourio signed an eight-year, $82 million deal this winter before playing an MLB game. Have you thought about that or is it far from your mindset right now?

Jackson Holliday:

It’s far away. I mean I think the Orioles know who to call (Holliday’s agent Scott Boras) if they want to set something up like that. It’s really cool for him. I was able to go on a mission trip this offseason and go to the Dominican [Republic]. I know (Chourio) is from Venezuela, which is a little bit different. But it’s pretty crazy where some of those (international players) come from. We went to a place where (New York Mets infielder) Ronny Mauricio is from and it’s all baseball there. That’s what they love to do. It’s part of that culture. So, I think being able to sign a contract like he has and hopefully be able to give back a little bit to his community is really awesome for him and his family. I’m sure they’re proud.

Was that your first mission trip?

Jackson Holliday:

Yeah, it was. It was with an organization called Compassion International. We were able to go there and play baseball with kids from the Dominican Republic and be around them. It’s pretty amazing how talented some of those kids are at an extremely young age. It gives you a whole other perspective on guys that come out of the Dominican and have such amazing careers. It gives me an even bigger heart for those guys in our organization.

How did you get involved with Compassion?

Jackson Holliday:

Through an organization called Pro Athletes Outreach; my mom helps run (the group’s women’s ministry). It’s a Christian conference; they have one for baseball, football and hockey. I got connected through that and was able to go there. (Former MLB pitcher) Jaime García was there, Chance Huff, a pitcher with the Nationals organization, and all of my siblings, too.

Speaking of siblings, your brother, Ethan, a high school junior third baseman, is currently considered the best prep player in the class of 2025. Do you have a quick scouting report on him and what it would be like to be the first set of brothers selected No. 1 overall?

Jackson Holliday:

Big E is really good. I am really looking forward to watching him this year over the phone. Obviously, I’m not able to go back home. He’s put in a lot of work, and he’s super talented. I’m pretty excited for the years to come for him to find out what team gets to pick him. I think he definitely has a possibility of (going first in 2025). It was pretty unexpected for me. Going into my senior year, I was definitely not thought of as the No. 1 player in the country, but he is. So, it’s a little bit different situation. He just needs to keep doing what he’s doing. He has a good head on his shoulders and has the talent to do so, so I think it would be exciting.

Another family note: You were married this winter to your fiancée, Chloe. How long have you been together?

Jackson Holliday:

We started dating my sophomore year in high school, so we have been together for almost five years now. She was able to come travel with us on the (amateur) baseball circuit, so she has seen it all. We got married this offseason in West Palm Beach (Fla.). So, it has been great to have her with me. She does online school at (Oklahoma State University), so she is able to travel and be here for spring training and the season. She is trying to get her marketing degree, or she may switch over to health or something like that. She’s the best.

Now to the most famous member of your family, what is the best advice your dad, Matt, has given you, whether in baseball or life?

Jackson Holliday:

There’s not been a lot of vocal advice. It’s more being able to watch him, how he carries himself, how he treated people in the clubhouse and at the stadium. How he always came home to the house as the same guy, no matter how the game was played. I think that is something that has stuck with me longer than any ‘Do this on the field’ or ‘Here’s some words of wisdom.’ Just watching him do things versus some magic words.

Do you compete with your dad in the batting cage or elsewhere? At 44, he still looks like he can play.

Jackson Holliday:

Yeah, he can still do it. He’s still got a pretty good swing, which is pretty funny. He plays pickleball a lot. I think that is the thing we compete in the most. It’s always 2-on-2. He doesn’t play 1-on-1.

Who would win if it was 1-on-1?

Jackson Holliday:

I’d like to think I could win, but he has got all the shots. He’s a lot more experienced than I am. I’d like to think I could chase the ball down a little bit more, but he has got all the shots and techniques.

Was there a player or two when you were a kid that made an impact on you in the clubhouses?

Jackson Holliday:

Being able to be in the same clubhouse as Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story toward the end of my dad’s career (in Colorado in 2018) was pretty cool, just to be able to see those guys in the prime of their careers. And obviously Aaron Judge in his rookie year (2016). I was able to be in the clubhouse for that as well. And all those Cardinals teams that were so good for so long, just being able to be around those guys was unbelievably cool. To really think about the guys I was surrounded by and the careers they’ve had is special to think about. I think I was lucky for my dad to be able to play with a lot of really good players for a long time.

Final subject: You’re 20, you play like you’re 25 and you look like you may be 14. How often do you get ribbed for your youthful appearance?

Jackson Holliday:

A lot. I get that a lot. I don’t think it’s a bad thing in the long run, right? 25 and look 20 or 40 and look 30. It’s not a bad thing to have and it’s pretty funny. It doesn’t really bother me.

What’s the funniest age quip you’ve gotten recently?

Jackson Holliday:

Heston (Kjerstad) likes to give me a hard time whenever kids show up on the field. ‘Hey Jackson, there are your teammates.’ There are some funny ones on Twitter about kids at school. I think the funniest one is the (meme) of all the frat kids walking into the house and it’s like, ‘The Orioles on Opening Day.’ That one is funny. They all have blonde hair.

Didn’t you have some initial trouble getting a hotel room when you were called up to Triple-A Norfolk because of your age and appearance?

Jackson Holliday:

Yeah, that was a funny one. Obviously, some hotels don’t let you in if you’re under 21. So that was the main problem, not being 21. They put us in a hotel that didn’t seem so safe, so we tried to switch it. They were like, ‘What’s your situation?’ And I said, ‘Well, I just got called up.’ They said, ‘OK, just don’t drink any alcohol in the room.’ I said, ‘OK. You got it. No problem.’