UTRGV and McAllen Rowe alumnus Ryan Jackson made his dreams a reality today as the right-handed pitcher signed a professional contract with the Tampa Bay Rays organization.

Jackson had been in contact with the Rays since the end of UTRGV’s season nearly one month ago. After a standout performance in front of Tampa Bay scouts Thursday, the Rays decided to make it official.

“I’m extremely happy. I’ve been waiting for this for the last three or four weeks, so it’s a relief off my shoulders now that I know I’m going somewhere,” Jackson said in a phone interview.

After his showing in front of the Rays’ scouts, Jackson was told to be on the lookout for a phone call. Friday afternoon while driving with his girlfriend, Jackson’s watch lit up signaling a phone call from the Rays’ scout, but he couldn’t immediately find his phone. He scrambled and found it in time to answer the call he’d been waiting for and finally received the offer to join the Tampa Bay Rays.

During his senior season at UTRGV, Jackson earned All-WAC First Team honors as a closer by going 5-4 with eight saves and a 1.74 ERA. He appeared in 28 games, struck out 61 batters in 46 2/3 innings and led the Western Athletic Conference in saves.

Jackson credited the UTRGV staff for helping him reach his full potential.

“From day one, UTRGV has helped me a lot. These last two years with coach (Derek) Matlock, I feel he’s really helped me step up my game to a new level and I feel like he’s been able to get the most out of me and get me to where I am today. A lot of credit goes to the whole staff there at UTRGV,” Jackson said.

Jackson will depart Sunday to join the Gulf Coast League (GCL) Rays in time for the start of the season against the GCL Red Sox on Monday. The season runs through August 31. The Gulf Coast League is a rookie level league.

“I’m excited for it. I’m ready for it. It’s a whole new game now. There’s bigger guys and a faster pace of baseball, so just got to look forward to it and work hard and get better,” he said.

He joins Anthony Gomez and Conner Dotson as the third player from the 2019 UTRGV roster to sign a professional contract this month after Gomez was drafted and signed to play with the Washington Nationals on June 13. Dotson signed with the Cleburne Railroaders of the American Association on June 16.