By Olivia Witherite (@oliviawitherite)
Flash back to summer. I entered the Orioles clubhouse after a game, completely naive, with absolutely no idea what to expect. I was really praying that I wouldn’t see a bunch of lackadaisical attitudes and hear a bunch of laughter. This was a loss after all… But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Fast forward to this Feb. 27, 2012. Yesterday in Sarasota in an interview with MLB.com, Adam Jones expressed his willingness to step up as a leader on a young ball team. The 26-year-old center fielder has been an obvious force in the Orioles lineup. A consistent bat, a strong arm and an All-Star bid all back that fact.
The talk of many trade rumors this off-season, Jones eventually avoided arbitration and finalized a one-year, $6.15 million deal with the Orioles. Back in Sarasota, he is working not only to improve his own game, but also to help improve the game of his teammates including left fielder Nolan Reimold.
“I just want to lead by example,” Jones said in the interview. “Obviously, I’m a vocal guy, so I just want to come out here, let everyone know on the team that I have your back no matter what. Through the failures, I’m going to be with you. Through the glorious times, I’m going to be with you, but let’s just come out here play the game hard every, single day and respect this game.”
Obviously, Jones is passionate about the game. Back to my earlier story, last summer, I had the absolutely amazing opportunity to intern with MASN at Camden Yards. One of the best days on the job was getting to go into the clubhouse after a game. There, after a tough loss, I got to see angry and sullen players after a loss in late July.
The team wasn’t playing for a pennant. They weren’t mad at blowing a playoff game or falling another game behind in the Wild Card race. No, they were playing to respect the game.
And, not surprisingly, Jones looked to be one of the most frustrated in the room.
Entering his fifth season with the team, Jones has emerged from a trade chip for Erik Bedard to one of the faces of the Orioles franchise.
He has batted .278/.322/.442 during his time in Charm City. He hit 25 home runs last season. He represented the O’s at the All-Star Game in 2009. He has had double-digit outfield assists in the last two seasons. He appeared in 151 games last year.
Jones is a solid workhorse, an anchor in the outfield. But more than that, he wants to turn the team around.
“”I want to do everything I can to be on a winning team,” Jones said later on in the interview.
And in Baltimore, the fans can’t wait to see that winning team. To look at that pennant. To watch orange flood the green seats in Camden Yards. To hear stories of people like me tell of the joy on Jones’ face in the clubhouse.
To watch other teams have the utmost respect for Orioles baseball.
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