Meet the MLB closer who leads a double life as a GM in another sport

Luke Jackson’s real job is stressful enough as it is. When the Atlanta Braves have a lead, he’s the guy they call to protect it. He’s the closer, the person who puts the team on his back in the ninth inning.

After that, you’d expect a guy would go home and relax. But that’s when Jackson dips into his side hustle. That’s when he puts on a different hat and becomes the general manager/scout/agent for Raised by Kings, the esports team he co-owns with his brother.

While Jackson’s esports role traffics in a much different avenue than his day job, his baseball experience has made him the perfect man to handle both responsibilities.

Jackson, along with his brother Chase, started Raised By Kings in January of 2018. Luke Jackson, 27, saw it as a good mix of his interests. Yes, the team was a business opportunity, but it involved a hobby he legitimately enjoyed. That would help keep Jackson engaged with the team during the baseball season.

Raised By Kings takes a backseat to Jackson’s baseball career during the season. He tries to stay in the loop on news as much as possible, and spends his down time watching streamers on Twitch.

Once the baseball offseason begins, Jackson dives headfirst into Raised By Kings work.

“In the offseason, I’m pretty hands on,” Jackson told Yahoo Sports. “I try to do as much as I can to help out and keep the business running, but it’s mainly a lot of contract work. We do a lot of contract stuff for players.”

Jackson also handles normal day-to-day requests. That could involve making sure players have what they need, getting them equipment, dealing with travel and hotel arrangements, ensuring players have enough time to spend with family, etc.

It also involves making tough decisions.

“Sometimes you have to cut people and sometimes you have to fire people,” Jackson says. “You don’t see that end of it when you’re just playing.”

That’s quite a shift from Jackson’s real job. As a player for the Braves, he’s not exposed to in-depth contract information, scouting reports or roster assembly. He only performs on the field.

This season has been Jackson’s best since he reached the majors in 2015. In 29 2/3 innings, Jackson has a career-low 3.03 ERA for the Braves. While Jackson didn’t begin the season as the team’s closer, his play has pushed him into that role as the year has gone on. After picking up just one save in April, Jackson saved six games for the Braves in May.

Luke Jackson Braves closer.
Luke Jackson knows how to handle pressure. (Getty Images)

Jackson’s on-field experience has added a level of familiarity to his tasks with Raised By Kings. When he watches streamers, he’s scouting. When he signs players, he’s rooting for them to succeed, just like an agent.

Perhaps most importantly, it gives Jackson a unique perspective on the athletes he employs at Raised By Kings. He understands the pressure that comes with their job.

“We go out there and pitch and it’s all performance-based, but [it’s the same ] for these guys. These guys have one good tournament, and they can change their lives. Fortnite is offering a $30 million tournament. These kids are 16-17 years old. Imagine you get stressed playing or maybe you miss a shot or you miss something, it could cost you a whole bunch.”

That $30 million tournament Jackson references is the Fortnite World Cup. The event will be held in July and carries a $30 million prize pool. Tickets have already sold out. Jackson is hopeful a major sports outlet will swoop in and broadcast the tournament.

Given the visibility of that event, Raised By Kings has poured all its resources into Fortnite in the hopes they qualify for the tournament. Having one of their players perform well at the event would bring much-needed visibility and attention to the young company.

In esports, building a brand is everything. Right now, Raised By Kings is more akin to a small-market club. They are trying to build a foundation of young players who can lead them to sustained success in a tough industry. They aren’t FaZe Clan, who Jackson compares to the New York Yankees, but they want to get to that level.

Until then, Jackson has to keep grinding. He can’t take it easy once he steps off the baseball field. Another team is depending on him.

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Chris Cwik is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at christophercwik@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Chris_Cwik

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