Jackson Rehkow has a pretty good idea his name will be penciled into the starting lineup this summer for the Kansas City Knights, who play in the Ban Johnson League. The only thing he doesn’t know is where he will be playing that day.
The Blue Springs South graduate has turned into a super utility player since leaving high school and he thanks his junior college coach for the foresight – even if he didn’t see it at the time.
Rehkow was predominately a catcher for the Jaguars and his summer team, KC Elite, but things changed when he landed at Highland (Kan.) Community College.
The Scotties had a strong catcher behind the plate, so coach Brandon Dulin suggested Rehkow try playing some infield.
"It was a big change," Rehkow said. "I didn’t like it but I was young and didn’t really know what was happening … but it really prepared me for where I am at now."
Rehkow parlayed his new versatility into a spot at Division I Arkansas-Pine Bluff this past year. He got some time behind the plate as a catcher for the Golden Lions, but also played first base, second base and third base.
"I love it now," Rehkow said of the many positions he plays. "At the end of the day I’m just playing baseball. It doesn’t matter to me if I’m at second, third, first. Just have the same mindset and make some small adjustments. I look back on it and most programs I have seen, a catcher only gets about 35 games at most in a 56-game season versus a position player; I can play 50-plus games. I didn’t realize it at the time. This year, if I would’ve just caught only eight to 10 games before the season ended. Instead, I’m a guy they can put in anywhere."
When Rehkow shows up to the ballpark each night, he’s ready to play any position. He carries a first baseman mitt, two catcher's mitts, a middle infield glove, a third base glove and an outfield glove – a position he played one series during his sophomore year of college.
So far for the Knights, he has caught, played second base, shortstop, first base and third base.
Dulin knew Rehkow could handle all the positions even before the player did.
"I heard good things about him and I saw the summer team play a lot and coach Rod Myers and I had a conversation about him," said Dulin, who is in his fifth year at Highland. "The biggest thing we saw was he had a good arm. I think the biggest thing we learned was he was a good baseball player, with a good baseball IQ, and he had good pedigree with his grandpa. He knows how the game is supposed to be played and what it looks like."
The grandfather referenced by Dulin is Freddie Patek, a shortstop who is in the Royals Hall of Fame. Rehkow didn’t bring up the connection and Dulin understands Rehkow is trying to make a name for himself.
Becoming a Division I player will do that for someone. He did that by his transition to new positions at Highland.
"Some guys fight and throw a fit and put up a fight," Dulin said. "I know he didn’t like it but he also understood and did what we needed to do. Credit to him for handling it the right way. I think we joked he wasn’t the prettiest, but hey, he can go make plays and he will figure it out. Jackson just wanted to play and help his team however he could. I knew he wanted to catch and we had a lot of conversations. I felt for the group – and ultimately for him moving forward – it would help him become more of a well-rounded baseball player and he took to it."
Rehkow made the travel team as a freshman and moved into the starting lineup in the middle of the season after the Scotties lost a starting first baseman and third baseman in the same week.
"I’m glad we had him on the bus ride that day," Dulin said. "We had to play him and from there, he took off and ran with it."
He got a full scholarship offer from UAPB and took it over offers from Division II schools or a walk-on opportunity at Division I Grand Canyon.
Being at UAPB has provided an opportunity to play bigger name schools – or would’ve had the season not been canceled earlier due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, the Golden Lions played Baylor, Wichita State and Oklahoma. Games at Ole Miss, Missouri and Arkansas were called off.
"You have a bunch of big schools that scouts watch, and if you have a good game, you will get looked at too," said Rehkow, a psychology major. "I’d love to continue to play after college, but coaching would be great too. It is a great game and it is hard to give it up no matter what."
He will still have two full years of eligibility at UAPB due to the NCAA waiver for spring sports athletes. He is getting back much-needed at-bats he missed during the spring season playing for the Knights this summer.
Rehkow has played for the Knights the past two years, but this year is the first in the Ban Johnson League. The Knights are a member of the Mid-Plains League, but that league decided not to play due to the pandemic. Then the Knights looked to have a chance to play in the MINK League, but that league also shuttered before playing a game. The Ban Johnson League stayed open and Rehkow took some time to adjust to his baseball swing after playing a lot of golf in the downtime without baseball.
"To me, baseball is baseball no matter where you play," he said. "I respect every level of baseball and that is another thing about Ban Johnson. There are a lot of guys I have known my whole life from high school to junior college. You watch them become good players no matter what level they are. Going D-I was the goal. That is part of the reason I didn’t go D-II out of high school because I felt I had it in me to go D-I. I just had to reach my full potential. In high school I didn’t realize I’d be a guy that would play six or seven positions. Once I found out what type of player I was, I realized someone could use that."