“We had just finished practicing and I was driving back to my apartment when I got the phone call,” said the Diamond Dog pitcher of being informed he had been drafted by in the ninth round by Baltimore. For the record, though, first word did not actually come from a club representative.
“It was Coach (Butch) Thompson,” Jones related. “After that I got a call from the Orioles.”
Regardless of source it was all excellent news for the junior righthander. “I was happy,” Jones said. “I’m very excited and to have been drafted by Baltimore. Now I feel like all the pressure and the weight is off, and I’m looking forward to the super regional.”
That was why Jones had been practicing, with Mississippi State preparing hurriedly for the weekend’s super regional series with Florida. Sate earned a berth in the NCAA tournament’s second weekend with a three-win run through the Atlanta Regional, where the third-seeded Diamond Dogs knocked off Southern Mississippi, Austin Peay, and host Georgia Tech for one of several upsets around the country.
Their host this weekend, the national #2 seed Gators, were not upset at all and automatically host this super regional round. The series starts Friday at noon eastern time. Jones will not be on the mound for the opening inning, but is part of Thompson’s pitching plans for the best-of-three series.
And, as he reminded, he can now turn all attention to getting ready for this rematch with Florida. As a third-year player Jones is among the thousands of college candidates for this 2011 draft. And even if the season has not gone exactly as he nor his coaches planned, Jones impressed scouts sufficiently to merit a top-ten-round selection.
“They haven’t told me what they see me as,” Jones said of Oriole evaluations. “They said I could get a chance to close or to start, a little bit of everything!”
That makes sense, because after two seasons throwing mostly as a reliever the talented junior was put in the rotation this season. Not just in it, but first as Jones opened eight weekends including four SEC series. Ironically his last start was against Florida back on April 8; more ironically that was Mississippi State’s lone win in four meetings with the Gators this season.
Since then all of Jones’ nine appearances have been from out of the bullpen…though his 5.1 outstanding innings in State’s win against LSU may as well have been a ‘start’. That victory quite probably was what clinched the Bulldogs the NCAA at-large bid that they have just parlayed into a regional championship and super regional opportunity.
For the year Jones is 2-5 in 17 games with a 4.45 ERA, having thrown 54.2 innings. He has 48 strikeouts and 23 walks. All season Coach John Cohen has praised Jones’ long-term potential once he gets into professional ball. Will Jones make the move this summer?
He has no idea right now, at least not that he will say. Nor does he seem overly concerned about the pending decision process, a luxury of the drafted underclassman whose team is still playing ball with big goals.
“No, there won’t be any difference in me tomorrow at practice,” he said. “Because we know we’re that much closer to the College World Series. I’ll be getting ready to play Florida. I want to prepare to help the team as best I can.” This is the second time Jones has been drafted as in 2008 he was picked in the 49th round by Cleveland out of Eupora High School. Three years of college improved his stock 40 rounds and who knows how much money.
Jones was one of three Diamond Dogs who saw their names scroll across the screen as the Major League draft went through the second day. Those teammates were both seniors tabbed in the top-25 rounds, too. Middle infielder Nick Vickerson was picked by Texas in the 20th round, and corner infielder Jarrod Parks in the 24th by the Los Angeles Angels.
The Mississippi State staff was pleased to see these two upperclassmen drafted, and had expected Jones to be selected as well. But while they also figured on a few Bulldog signees getting drafted news that righthander Brandon Woodruff of Wheeler, Miss., High School went in the fifth round, to Texas as well, was not so welcome beyond an affirmation of the pitcher’s talents. Also, southpaw pitcher Jacob Lindgren of St. Stanislaus HS in Bay St. Louis, Miss., was tabbed in the 12th round by the Chicago Cubs.
The current Bulldogs will be back on the practice field Wednesday morning, around 11:00, for the final campus workout before they depart for Gainesville. The MLB draft also concludes the full 50 rounds on Wednesday, and by the time Cohen arrives in central Florida he will have a clear idea of how much damage his underclassman roster as well as the incoming class could absorb before August 15.
A Q&A with Jones can be found on the Baltimore Orioles Scout.com site as well.
Click here to read the Q&A with Jones