Jones Returning To Cooperstown In May For Baseball Hall Of Fame Classic
Garrett Jones, a veteran of eight MLB seasons, is returning to Cooperstown next Month for a second consecutive year to represent the Pittsburgh Pirates in the National Baseball Hall of Fame Classic.
Jones, who was selected as the Bob Feller Player of the Game at last year's Classic played at Doubleday Field, slugged two home runs and a double, leading Team Ozzie to victory.
Once "Play Ball" was sounded by the home plate umpire, according to Garrett, his past baseball habits kicked in.
"It was like a legit game. Jose Contreras (representing the Chicago White Sox) was throwing the ball at 50 mph. It was a lot of fun to play ball again. Once I put on the uniform, it was as if all muscle memory came back. My body remembered what to do."
Jones who last played in the MLB with the New York Yankees in the 2015 season, admits to having felt "butterflies in his stomach" when stepping up to the plate for the first time at Doubleday Field.
Another reason that made Jones' first visit to Cooperstown even more special along with reconnecting with former teammates and opponents, his young son accompanied him to the Classic.
"As a kid, I was a baseball card collector. I saw a lot of cards in the museum that were part of my collection. My son was in awe of the digital cards," Jones said during a recent telephone conversation from his home in suburban Nashville.
In checking out the memorabilia, while touring baseball's ultimate museum, one item stuck out to Jones. The wooden bat, a prop from the 1984 movie "The Natural" starring Robert Redford, with the word "Wonderboy" printed on it was his favorite along the tour.
"Seeing the thunderbolt on it was pretty cool. It reminded me of my high school. We (Victor J. Andrew High School in Tinley Park, IL) were called the Thunderbolts."
Since retiring from professional baseball, Jones remains busy with a number of entrepreneurial endeavors including land development. Along with his son, Jones is dad to a three-year-old daughter.
The former first baseman/outfielder experienced the five most productive seasons of his career (offensively) with the Pirates. From 2009 thru 2013, Jones averaged playing in 135 games for Pittsburgh, and belted 100 of his 122 career home runs during this time.
In looking back at his time playing in the "Steel City", Jones thinks of teammates who helped in the club's overall transformation in getting into the playoffs.
"We had Cutch (Andrew McCutchen), Neil (Neil Walker), and Marte (Starling Marte), they were the pieces that made the team special to be part of. The city was so exciting. There was so much support for us."
This year's Baseball Hall of Fame Classic on Saturday May 27 has announced 22 of the expected 30 former MLB players expected in Cooperstown. Among the hall of famers scheduled to coach and manage the two teams are Bert Blyleven, Rollie Fingers, Ferguson Jenkins, Jim Kaat, and Jack Morris.
Don Laible is a freelance sportswriter from the Mohawk Valley, now living in Florida. He has reported on professional baseball and hockey for print, radio, and on the web since the 1980's. His columns are featured weekly at WIBX950.com. Don can be contacted via email at Don@icechipsdiamonddust.com.