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Why Orioles center fielder Adam Jones is like the first chapter of a good book

It is, admittedly, a little foolish to get too excited about events that occur just a few games into 162-game season. There is a reason why baseball requires so much patience, both from its players and its followers. Each at-bat, each game, each series and each season, play out like short stories in a larger collection. If you get too high or too low after any one of them ends, you'll go mad trying to enjoy the larger journey.

That said, watching Orioles center fielder Adam Jones so far this season feels like one of those moments when you're reading a book, you're midway through the opening chapter, and you realize you can't take your eyes off the page. You have no idea how it's going to play out, but that doesn't matter yet. What matters is possibility. The promise of everything still to come. It gives you goosebumps. Rarely am I as happy as when I'm just getting invested in a good book, or when I'm watching a young athlete on the cusp of emerging.

Jones had two more hits last night, pounding out two doubles against the Rays to raise his average to .429 this season, and he also scored a pair of runs in Baltimore's 5-4 win. He also came ridiculously close to snatching Evan Longoria's first home run, climbing the wall and just missing an over-the-shoulder basket catch. Just watching him take off and find that extra gear -- whether it's attempting to score on a hit or track down a fly ball -- is worth the price of admission. He may not ever hit 40 HRs in a season, but he's also strong enough and has quick enough hands that it would be silly to dismiss the possibility either.

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Nick Markakis is already an excellent player. And like a lot of people in the area, I'm excited to see Matt Wieters hitting in the heart of the Orioles lineup sooner rather than later. He too represents possibility. But there is something exhilarating about watching a center fielder with speed and grace -- but with arms like an NFL running back -- that makes me excited about going to games this season. It doesn't hurt that he seems like a good guy in every possible way. This is, after all, a kid who was excited enough about coming to Baltimore that one of the first things he did after he was traded was get in touch with Ray Lewis to find out more about the city. It never hurts to pay homage to the king, and it's in stark contrast with Erik Bedard's personality, a grumpy and sullen individual even on a good day. (He and rainy Seattle seem like a perfect match, in retrospect.)

ESPN's Tim Kurkjian addressed the excitement that Jones' potential inspires on Friday, and it reminded me that I'm entering uncharted waters in a way. As long as I've lived in Baltimore (since 2000), the Orioles have been mediocre or bad. Any musings, either in the national or local media, about the potential of Baltimore's young players felt more like wishful thinking than reality. (Luis Matos ring a bell?)

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But this one feels a little different. Jones is going to go through slumps this season, and it would be surprising if he really did emerge as "one of the AL's best players" as Kurkjian prophesised after talking to O's skipper Dave Trembley.

"His pitch selection is so much better," Trembley said. "His knowledge of the strike zone is so much better. That is very difficult to improve for a young player, but he has great hand-eye coordination. And he is a great athlete. He is also a very, very smart young man."

Part of what made Nick Adenhart's recent death so sad is that, at age 22, all that promise, both as a baseball player and as a person, was still in front of him. That's true of every person who dies young and never has a chance to really see how much they might have bloomed. We -- along with his family -- never got to witness those cool July nights when Adenhart had his curveball working, his fastball humming, and for a few hours, he could lose himself in a sport that he loved. 

Possibility can be exhilarating, especially in baseball, where every action is predicated on anticipation. Jones is just 23 years old. Maybe he won't be a star, but maybe he will. Every game, right now, is like turning another page in his book.

I don't want to know how the story will unfold. I just want the chance to savor every bit of it as it does.

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