We all know Adam Jones as the Gold Glove All-Star, the face of the Orioles franchise. Some may see him as a selfish, uncensored player that only cares about himself, based on various stories or his tweets. However, I’m here to tell a story of the man known as @SimplyAJ10, from my perspective a great man who I respected and admired during my days with the OPACY Tarp Crew. I also hope to convince these other people of the great charisma and character of this man with the number ten on his back in centerfield.
During my first year as a member of the Tarp Crew in 2011, I remember not being able to predict what my experiences would be or if I’d be able to meet any of the Orioles players that I admired – like Jones. I eventually got opportunities to meet many of them, but this story is about “10.” He was a shining star on a young, rebuilding Orioles team. His tenure began in 2008 when he was traded from the Seattle Mariners, along with Chris Tillman, George Sherrill, Kam Mickolio, and Tony Butler, for Erik Bedard. Jones would eventually find his place in center, and began to cement his legacy in Baltimore.
My first experience with Jones was during the Tarp Crew sprints onto the field. Those who attend games at OPACY regularly probably know, but I will give you a quick back story on what the Tarp Crew sprints are. As a member of the Tarp Crew, one of the duties is to sit in the bullpen area and open the door between innings and pitching changes (which was my favorite job). Another duty in the bullpen area was running the reliever’s jacket to either the opposing dugout or the home dugout during pitching changes.
But, there was a catch. If the Orioles were winning, you had to sprint at full speed back to the bullpen area from either dugout – that is a tradition that remains to this day.
Why is Adam Jones involved? He was a reason you ran as fast as you could, because if you didn’t run hard enough then you would hear it from him the next time you ran by him. Adam wanted to get everyone into the game, and our sprinting was a way of getting the fans into it. The best part however was when you ran by, he would yell “Let’s go! Let’s get it!” or “Hustle baby! I love it.”
Each time was special, because you made the crowd cheer for you and you got Jones’ approval.
Adam always showed the Crew respect, because he knew that we worked hard every single game day. He would also have conversations with some of us, myself included, on rare occasions. Jones wanted to show that he cared for people, and he also wanted to make bonds with the people that made Camden Yards operate on a daily basis. I can also tell you that this man is one of the friendliest professional athletes I’ve met during my time.
There was one game during the 2012 season when the O’s were getting crushed. It was the 7th inning, and I jogged back to the bullpen because we were losing. I ran by Jones, Nate McLouth and Chris Davis (who filled in for Nick Markakis during the 2012 season) waiting in center for the reliever to throw his warm-up pitches. All of a sudden, as I got closer to them, I heard someone calling me.
It was Jones. “Tall Kid, come over here for a second,” he said.
I was in complete shock as I walked over to their huddle (“Tall Kid” was my nickname). He asked me, “How is everything going over there with the grounds crew?” I told him that everything was going fine and that it had been a good season so far.
“How tall are you?” he asked, seemingly out of nowhere. “Because you are one big [expletive], man.”
I laughed and told him I was 6’5. Even Davis was amazed, and asked about my shoe size. While this was just, obviously, a very short conversation, it was a great example of how Jones would welcome any one of us on the Tarp Crew. He’d talk to us, not because he had to, but he wanted to get to know us. I respect him greatly for that.
I’m also grateful for what Jones has done for Baltimore and for the Crew. Jones, through Twitter and other outlets, has been known to give away special prizes to fans that enter the ballpark early. One example of this leads me to another story I’ll never forget.
It was May 27, 2012, when Jones signed his six-year, $85 million extension deal with the Orioles. There was a big buzz around Baltimore that he would remain a big piece of the Orioles franchise for years to come. I remember being at work early because of a late night rain storm; we removed the tarp in the morning and were eventually waiting until game time.
It was at least two hours before first pitch, when groundskeeper Nicole McFadyen entered our locker room area and told us that Jones had decided to give away $100 gift cards to all of the Tarp Crew. The cards would be from his sponsored clothing store, FiveFour, based in California. We were all so happy and surprised by this move by Jones, a man that could have easily kept the gift cards for other people or good friends. That he decided to give young hard-working teenagers the chance to splurge and buy new clothing for themselves was awesome.
Another great example was my last game as a member of the Crew, in late August 2013. I had to leave due to the start of my freshman year at Mount St. Mary’s University. I remember that I tweeted out that it was my last game, and I mentioned @SimplyAJ10 and thanked him for the great memories. I didn’t hear anything from him before I went to work, which was understandable as the Orioles were fighting for a spot in the postseason.
I decided for my last day, I would be in the bullpen area and sprint my last jacket runs, which I loved to do so much. I remember I ran a jacket to the opposing dugout, and Jones was at third base. As I turned back to sprint from the dugout, Jones called me over.
He said, “I heard today was your last day. Good luck man and I hope everything goes well. Now make sure you sprint as fast as you can for me.” I shook his hand and sprinted one of my last runs.
It was at this moment that I fully appreciated Adam Jones for everything that he brought to Baltimore. He showed that he cared and for that I’m forever grateful. I’m proud to say that I know the great Adam Jones and I consider him a icon that I look up to.
People may be asking why I am writing about this now.
Well, like I said, sometimes you hear negative stories that cast a player in a poor light. From cryptic tweets to gaffes at pregame gatherings, Jones has not been immune to missteps. I wanted to tell my stories to give another perspective, to prove that Adam Jones is not a selfish baseball player that only cares about himself. He cares about the employees, fans and community of Baltimore. Jones shows every day that he loves Baltimore, and wants to remain in Baltimore for a long time. That’s why he was in the running for so long in the #FaceOfTheMLB contest – because the fans love him and he loves them back.
For that, we should all love and appreciate the bubble-gum chewing, Superman in center field named Adam Jones.