ARLINGTON -- Austin Jackson was a multi-sport athlete in high school in nearby Denton, Texas, before going into pro ball. On Jackson's return to Texas on Friday, Nelson Cruz's ill-advised diving attempt in right field sent Jackson on a track meet around the bases.
It ended with Jackson dashing home with his first career inside-the-park home run and the first by a Tigers player in five years.
"It's definitely fun," Jackson said after the Tigers' 6-2 win. "You get a lot of friends and family to come out and watch you. It's not that far away. They don't really get a chance to see me play that much."
Jackson already had put his legs to work earlier the game, having legged out a leadoff triple in the fourth inning to set up the Tigers' first run. He struck out in the sixth inning before Detroit's go-ahead rally but came back with one out in the seventh with a shallow flare toward the right-field line off Rangers reliever Tanner Scheppers.
"It was a heater that kind of trailed back over the middle of the plate," Scheppers said. "He kind of flared it and it was tailing away from Cruz. I was really happy that he laid out for it. ... When a guy lays out for you, he's trying to make the out there."
Cruz decided to try for the catch rather than play it on a bounce for a potential double. Once he missed, however, the ball bounced past and kept rolling as Jackson sped around second base. Third-base coach Gene Lamont was already waving Jackson home by the time Cruz collected the ball and fired to second baseman Ian Kinsler.
"It's a big thrill," Jackson said. "You don't really think it's going to happen like that, but to see him waving, you kind of get that extra boost of adrenaline. You're just running hard, see what happens.
"I felt my legs kind of getting heavy a little bit around second, but I see him waving his arms like he's pretty excited and it got me excited, too."
A strong throw from Kinsler might have created some suspense at the plate, but a high throw left catcher Mike Napoli with no chance as Jackson crossed the plate.
"I was trying to catch it," Cruz said. "I think as soon as he hit it, it was good. But when I felt like I was going to dive, I was like [dang], I can't get to it. I guess it wasn't a good idea."
The last Tigers player with an inside-the-park home run, ironically enough, was the guy Jackson replaced at leadoff and center field. Curtis Granderson did it against his eventual new team, running out an inside-the-parker against the Yankees on Aug. 26, 2007.
No Tigers player had a triple and an inside-the-park homer in the same game since Steve Kemp did it on Sept. 4, 1977, against Oakland.
Jackson's home run was the sixth inside-the-parker in the history of Rangers Ballpark at Arlington. Craig Gentry did it last Sept. 23 against Seattle.