2018 was a whirlwind for the 21 year old. First, Halos Heaven’s Rex broke the story that he picked up a second baseman’s glove to kick of Spring Training. And while in Tempe, he got his first taste of action with the big league club.
Jones was promoted to High A Inland Empire to start the year, picked up another promotion to AA Mobile in August, and was selected to play in the prestigious Arizona Fall League as an Angels representative. The AFL, which begins October 9th, is yet another step up in competition, an All Star list of prospects from each organization competing against each other.
While at the Angels complex in Tempe getting ready for the AFL, Jones made time for another interview. As always, he was warm, personable, and straightforward. Here's the transcript:
Thanks again Jahmai. We haven’t talked to you this year so let’s start at the beginning. Spring Training opens up, you show up, and you pick up a second baseman’s glove. When did the Angels tell you they were thinking about moving you to second base?
“They told me, kind of, in Spring Training or just before then in routine talks just before I came out. They were like ‘don’t be surprised if you move positions this year’ and I was excited for the opportunity so I said ‘sure, why not?’
I mean, I get a free glove from Wilson. Might as well get an infield glove I already have a plethora of outfield gloves. Last thing I need to do is get another stock outfield glove when I have some that are barely used if used at all and I already love the one I was using at the moment.
So I got the infield glove, started fooling around with it and I ended up really liking it. Then I brought it out to big league camp and they told me ‘hey man, we’re actually going to make the full transition for you to go to the infield’ and I said ‘perfect let’s get to work’ and I haven’t looked back.
And then you got some time with the big league club during Spring Training. What was that experience like?
“It was a lot of fun. I got to be up there for a little over a month, I think, maybe right at a month and it was a blast. I loved every minute of it.
Definitely learned a lot from all the veterans up there; things they were doing, things that they’ve been through, things they’re going through right now currently. They understand the experiences I’m having, the feelings I’m having, and everything that’s been going on.
So, just being able to pick their brains and take little things from them that I can apply to my own career was all worth the while. I’m hoping to go back again next Spring Training and learn even more from those guys, especially being in the infield now.
I’m trying to soak up as much as I can as I continue to make a push for my debut.”
Any tidbit or two that really stuck in your mind that you’ve been working on this year?
“Nothing too specific, more of a generalization of the mental game and how important that is. Every single guy that I talked to it was the same thing over and over again: just control what you can control, not get all worked up over everything.
I mean, some of the best players in the game go 0 for 30 and some of the best fielders in the game make errors on routine plays. It happens, we’re human.
And understanding that from some of the best players, you kind of put everything into perspective. You understand that at the end of the day it is a game. At the end of the day you’re supposed to have fun and that everything is not meant to be taken so seriously all the time.
Trying not to be so hard on yourself. Just go out there, play, and try to have a good time while doing it. I mean the best times I play is when I’m having fun, so it was just good to hear it from them.”
They really challenged you this year. Obviously first with the Major League team in Spring Training and then they advanced you a level despite learning a new position, were you ready for that?
“Oh yeah, I definitely think I was. I mean I’m always excited for the opportunity to get to see some new scenery get to see some new affiliates, new pitching, new teams. Just get that energy back into you once you move and it was just good to see that.
They had faith in me, I have faith in myself. I know that I can play anywhere they put me so I’m just excited to continue to do what I love as my job.”
It seemed like it kind of took you a little while to get your footing out in Inland Empire then as soon as you did, bam, you got promoted again. What was it like going to Double A? Is there a clear rise in the level of talent at that level?
“There is. I mean you got guys on the mound every single time they come out they’re good. They know what they want to do, they execute their plan, and they execute their pitches. So you have to learn how take what you want and swing at what you want to swing at regardless of if its their pitch or not.
From a fielding sense, everyone gets faster everyone hits better. The speed of the game is definitely a lot faster in Double A than it is in High A.
And knowing that, I’m just looking to compete, have some fun out there, and try to make a name for myself and continue to do what I do best.”
Nice. And you’re still the youngest guy on every team you play on, right?
“Uh, Jo (Adell) was this year. Jo pretty much followed me. But it was pretty much either me, him, or (Brandon) Marsh who were the youngest guys all the time.”
You said in our last interview that you’ve known Jo for years and that you two are friends. Has anybody taken you under their wing or tried to be a mentor to you?
“[chuckles] No. That’s not something a 23 year old is looking to do. We all talk to each other. It’s not a ‘who am I going to pick out and try to mentor’ kind of case. It’s a team. Regardless of how you look at it, everyone bounces ideas off each other, everybody picks up each other and especially in this organization.
I have good friends throughout the organization and we definitely are closer than some of the other guys, just like everybody else is who has friends. But it’s not like a mentor kind of figure thing it’s more of ‘hey, if I have a question I know I can ask three or four guys’ or if they have a question they can ask me, come to me.
It’s not like I have one specific guy because then I’m limiting myself to only one range of knowledge, limiting myself to only one range of experiences, instead of having 24 guys around me who have been through 24 different routes and 24 different experiences. Now I can bounce what I’ve been through with what they know that they like; which pitches they like to swing at, why they swing at these pitches, why they throw these pitches in these counts, and what locations they’re trying to hit on certain guys.
I don’t want just one guy trying to build me up. I want to be built around 24 different guys regardless of if they’re pitchers, catchers, outfielders, infielders and build my knowledge up as much as I can.
Not only that, at any point, at any time I could change positions again. I could go back to the outfield. I could be a different infielder. I don’t know. So the last thing I want to do is just limit myself to one position, one person, one mind when there’s so much information out there, so many different guys that I’d be hurting myself if I just limited it to one mentor.”
Thanks for that insight. I’ve always wondered if the minor leagues were 25 guys pulling on the same rope or if everybody was focused on themselves and simply trying to get ahead.
You got the call to go to the Arizona Fall League. How did you hear you had been selected?
“My manager at Double A (Lou Marson) will be the manager of the Silver Sox this year.
He pulled me in and said ‘Jam I gotta talk to you’ and I was like ‘ah man, what did I do?’ And he told me ‘yeah, they want you to go to the Fall League, you’ve been invited to play in the Fall League, it’s a big great honor. I’m really excited about managing so I’ll be out there with you.’
I’m just excited for the opportunity. The opportunity to play some more baseball with some guys from the other organizations that I’m really good friends with and just compete.
I feel like this league coming up is going to be more relaxed but its also going to be all about just trying to have a good time and go win some baseball games which I love to do at the end of the day. I mean, development is a great thing but I feel like you develop your best win you’re trying to win every day, pushing yourself every time you step out onto the field.”
Does it get the competitive juices flowing a little bit knowing every other team is sending their best, too? It is like a mini All Star League.
“Right. I’m excited for it. I’m just itching to start playing again.”
You’ve been out in Tempe for a little over a week preparing for the Fall League. What exactly are you doing? Extra hitting, extra infield, things like that?
“Its just been a lot of everything, a very generous mix of probably everything you could think of. I have a lot of time out here.
Some days are spent doing physical activity some are spent doing meetings and video. We’re really trying to hit all corners of the game and not just stopping at ‘you need to take more reps here’ or ‘you need to take more reps there’ but really developing the understanding of the game.
I’m not around the game trying to compete, but I’m trying to understand everything that I’m trying to do. I’m excited though. I’ll finally get to start playing some real games in the next couple weeks and I’m just uh...like I said I’m just really itching to get back to playing.”
Now that you’ve been to the Spring Training complex a few times, have you found some fun things to do away from the ballpark? What do you like to do for fun when you are away from the game?
“Just hanging out at the apartment with a couple of guys who I live with. Hang out, get dinner, you know, go see a movie here or there, maybe head down to Scottsdale Fashion Square to do a little bit of shopping.
Really, just kick it. There’s not much too it.”
It’s still hot out there, right?
“Yeah. It’s awful. I hate it.”
But you grew up where it is hot. Not 110, but it is humid in Atlanta.
“You get used to humidity once you live there. You don’t get used to 125.”
So do they have you working out at the crack of dawn to avoid some of the heat?
“No. The emphasis is sleep. The emphasis is trying to maintain our health. We’re trying to eat right, and get ample amounts of sleep, so for us to come in at the crack of dawn would be counter productive.
We try to get that in between; try not to get here super late but at the same time we’re also not waking up at the crack of dawn because it would be counter productive to what they’re trying to do from the nutrition side. They’re trying to make sure we get X amount of sleep and they know that everybody out here stays up, not everybody out here goes to bed at 10 o’clock.
Them telling everybody to be here at 6 wouldn’t be wise because they know that everybody just got finished with the season, everybody is trying to unwind. They give us enough time to have a personal time but that also know that we’re trying to get in here and do some other stuff, so it’s a great balance, its a great chance so far.
We have a couple of days left, then we’ll be done and I’ll be heading home for a couple of weeks then back out here for Fall League.”
After the Fall League go home for some family time over the holidays then get ready for 2019, right?
“Exactly. 2019’s already started. I’m pumped to get it rolling and keeping it going.”
Perfect. One last thing: back in Spring Training I texted you a video of your Top 10 highlight on SportsCenter. Were you able to watch the later SportsCenter and see yourself?
“No. I just saw the clip that you sent me. To be honest, I don’t watch a whole lot of SportsCenter [chuckles]. When I get done with the game I like to unwind with something that’s going to take my mind off of it, something that I can just relax, maybe just get a good laugh at.
The last thing I want to do is watch something that is going to try to get me locked in after being locked in for the last three and a half hours throughout the game.
I definitely didn’t see it on SportsCenter.”
Well there goes my ‘how cool was it to see yourself on SportsCenter?’ question ha ha.
It has been great catching up with you. I really appreciate the time. Best of luck during the Fall League, enjoy your time with your family, and we’ll talk again next year if that’s alright with you.
“Oh yeah. Thanks for having me.”
Please leave comments and questions below. Jahmai will be sent links to the interviews and gives them a read.