Lions’ Stafford, Tigers’ Jackson share sandlot history

ALLEN PARK, Mich. – Long before Matthew Stafford became a star quarterback for the Lions and Austin Jackson a standout center fielder for the Tigers, they met on the sandlot.

Stafford, who grew up in Highland Park, Texas, will never forget the fear that Jackson, from Denton, Texas, put in other teams when they faced each other a couple years before high school.

“He was a freak,” Stafford said. “He put a couple third basemen in the hospital.

“He was a dead pull-hitter, just like he is now. He was such a threat to bunt — he was just so fast — people would play in on him and he’d rip it down third with a metal bat.

“We made our guy play on the outfield grass at third base and just give him the bunt.”

Stafford, 24, has shared those memories of their youth with Jackson, 25, since the two became pro athletes in the same city.

“He says he remembers me from the baseball diamond,” Stafford said. “I highly doubt that.”

Stafford hasn’t forgotten, nor will he.

“I think I got him out once or twice when I was pitching,” the QB said. “That was like a big deal to get him out.

“I just remember he popped one up, 400 feet up. It was lucky it didn’t go out. I think I struck him out once looking. Probably a bad call.”

Jackson, who just returned from the disabled list after an oblique injury, is hitting .324 this season. His two-run double off Reds closer Aroldis Chapman helped the Tigers rally for a 7-6 victory in Cincinnati on Sunday.