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Battle Ground’s Jackson Hotchkiss, one of state’s top baseball prospects, builds on strong stretch of play

Tigers senior outfielder, Washington commit is No. 2-ranked player in 2024 class

By Will Denner, Columbian staff writer
Published: April 5, 2024, 2:57pm
3 Photos
Battle Ground Jackson Hotchkiss (19) fist bumps teammate Keegan Moffatt (15) after Hotchkiss hit a solo home run during a season-opening, non-league baseball game against Ridgefield on Friday, March 8, 2024, at Ridgefield Outdoor Recreation Complex.
Battle Ground Jackson Hotchkiss (19) fist bumps teammate Keegan Moffatt (15) after Hotchkiss hit a solo home run during a season-opening, non-league baseball game against Ridgefield on Friday, March 8, 2024, at Ridgefield Outdoor Recreation Complex. (Will Denner/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

A text message revealing good news came as somewhat of a surprise to Jackson Hotchkiss last July.

Earlier in the summer, Hotchkiss earned a “referral” to try out for the Area Code Games, a showcase of the top high school baseball players in the country with MLB scouts and college coaches in attendance.

After the tryout, an intimidating process with some 200 other players, the now-senior from Battle Ground waited nearly a month until he received an invite to play in the Area Code Games, held in San Diego last August.

“I wasn’t expecting to make it, but I made the team, went out there and performed pretty good,” said Hotchkiss, who committed to Washington just days before the event.

“I was going into it (with) not very many expectations, because coming from Washington, you don’t see the competition that you do there. … Definitely the best competition I’ve seen, and I feel like I stepped up to it pretty good.”

Pretty good is likely an understatement. He excelled at Area Codes, getting named to the all-tournament team, and walked away from the experience with his eyes wide open, eager to build on that success.

“It was completely new for me. I came out of it with a lot of phone calls, a lot of everything. It flipped the switch for me. I feel like since then there’s been a fire under me — (to) just keep going,” Hotchkiss said.

As a result, the rangy 6-foot-3 outfielder with power and speed has seen his stock surge entering his senior season with Battle Ground. Hotchkiss is the No. 2-ranked prospect in Washington for the class of 2024, making him one of the top players in the state, and he could have an interesting decision to make between playing college or professional baseball pending the outcome of the MLB Draft this summer.

Until then, however, Hotchkiss is focused on enjoying this spring with his Battle Ground team, which is 8-3 after Thursday’s win over Mountain View and begins its 4A Greater St. Helens League schedule on Monday against Camas.

The Tigers and first-year coach Seth Johnson are glad to have Hotchkiss, not only for his on-the-field contributions, but also the humility and work ethic that sets an example for the rest of the team.

“You want your best players to be the best leaders and the ones who lead by example. He is the epitome of that,” Johnson said.

Without question, Johnson says no one in the program works harder than Hotchkiss, and it has an effect on teammates to raise their own level of play. The Tigers have been competitive in every game they’ve played this season, including three losses, all decided by one run (two by walk-off).

“Having him, not just be talented to be the leader that he is and work the hardest … I think it’s a big difference on us winning some of these, especially some of the close games,” Johnson said. “Because the expectation is, your best player is going to do it, so then everyone else should be able to do it too.”

Aside from his breakout performance over the summer in San Diego, Hotchkiss was a fixture at the ballpark. He played on Vancouver-based club Coast to Coast Turf Baseball and a number of other showcase events.

His dedication certainly made a difference. One scouting service, Prep Baseball Report, wrote in August that there wasn’t a “single position player who has done more to elevate their stock in the last six months than Hotchkiss” in Washington, while adding the outfielder “will garner significant MLB Draft buzz.”

Hotchkiss prefers not to listen to the outside noise. But if prognosticators are right for the July draft, he’ll weigh his options then.

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“Still undecided, kind of seeing where things take me,” Hotchkiss said. “I’ve still got half a season left, looking forward to the next 10 games and we’ll see where it takes me.”

Hotchkiss and the Tigers have good reason to be excited for where this spring goes. After a disappointing 2023 season in which the team won only five games, the Tigers are reinvigorated with a new coaching staff and budding senior star.

“Last year was kind of a tough year, but we’ve definitely flipped it around,” Hotchkiss said. “New coach, pretty much new attitudes from everyone. It’s good to see. It’s nice to lead them. … It’s a lot more fun this year.”