Orioles center fielder Adam Jones doesn't mind getting your attention, whether it's with a flashy play in center field, a long home run or a controversial opinion on Twitter. He knows baseball stardom has put him in a unique position to help kids, but he isn't afraid to use that platform to draw attention to a cause or societal problem.
He wasn't born in Baltimore, but he has grown up before our eyes and now is a husband, new father and the unquestioned leader of a team that has risen from the ashes of 14 straight losing seasons to enter this season as the defending American League East champion.
The Orioles have developed a winning culture that now spans three seasons, and Jones is a big part of that, both on the field and in the clubhouse. He's also a big player in the community, with a strong message for young people that endorses teamwork, the importance of athletics and — first and foremost — education. Below is the last of a four-part interview from earlier this spring.
Let's go back to baseball. ... The kid from Cuba [Yoan Moncada] gets $30 million without ever playing an inning in American pro baseball. You didn't get into that realm until you signed your big contract.
At this point, I've probably made just a little bit over 30. You can't fault the player. It's never the player's fault. They're going to offer it, you're damn right you're going to take it as a player. It's the process. I saw what [Tampa Bay Rays pitcher] Drew Smyly said. At the end of the day, a 19-year-old kid is a 19-year-old kid. That's a college freshman in the United States. We've got a few first-round picks from high school. What's a first overall pick get nowadays — $5 million, $7 million? It's slotted now. It's not to say that this kid is any different or better or worse. They need to do something about that. If you're under a certain age, there's no way you should be getting a major league contract. You've got guys who have grinded their tails off for six major league seasons who don't even get $15 million. I get [that] the Cuban league is good and I respect every baseball player, especially the Cubans. They don't have very much down there and they make the most out of it. To come down here, and it's a bidding war … obviously, every time you bid, you're driving the price up.
They need to formulate something — a draft or something — and make it realistic. You can't give a guy who's never hit Justin Verlander, [Max] Scherzer, [David] Price, Gio Gonzalez, [Stephen] Strasburg [a big contract]. You're giving a guy who has never faced them. … I get that the guys in Cuba are very good … but these are the world's best, and you give a guy [a] $10 million [per-year] average who's never faced that? I'm not saying that's wrong. I'm saying there's something that needs to be done to that process, because there are guys here that put in that time. They put in time, too, but different. I'm not saying it's unfair, but it needs to be resolved. It has to go through the commissioner's office, because they're the ones who are calling all the shots.
That's just a small part of it, but are you satisfied with the state of the game?
I am, to an extent. I think there's too many people who don't get the in-game, the live things that are going on, that are saying, “Look ... this is what we're going to do now.” And Big Papi [David Ortiz] said it perfect: “I'm not going to change myself.” He's become successful and has been successful since I can remember the last 15 years because he takes his time and waits for his pitch. You're not going to say, “Hey, Papi, now speed up.” They don't come to us. They just say, “We're going to implement it. We're going to try this.” I mean, there has to be some compromise. ... That's all the players ask, is a little bit of compromise, and we won't have a problem. But if you just say, "You've got to do this," as major league players, especially the veteran guys, we're set in our ways in certain things. We know what we need to do to be ready for a season. To get ourselves ready to hit, ready to field, we know what we need to do. For guys, MLB execs, to say, "This is what we're going to do now," I think that's something that you need to get a lot of guys on board and bring it up to them, create a dialogue. You can't just say, "We're going to do this," and people will be obliged. I guarantee you Big Papi will not. He'll do his own thing. As he should.
He'll just write them a check.
You're going to make me write a check just because I'm getting myself prepared to hit. The fans love it. The fans don't complain about 3-hour-and-30-minute games. The fans don't.
I was just about to get to that. Have you ever had a kid come up to you and say: “I wish this game would get over quicker”?
Never. The fans don't complain. The concession stands don't complain. When you have those two sets of people that don't complain, who's getting rich? The owner. He don't complain. He don't care. The game goes four hours. Beer sales are going, nachos sales are still going, hot dogs are going. You're getting your peanuts. Boog's [BBQ] is still going. You're getting your money. But it's the umpires. The umpires don't want to be out there. I get it; they don't want to be out there. Most of them are getting up there in age. They're older. I wouldn't want to be out there, either. But you have to understand, the game is the game. Don't try to make all these rules. It's baseball. It's not football. ... We're able to be mobile until when we're 40, 50, 60 years old. Don't try to police this game too much. It's the longest of all the American sports for a reason. Let it be itself.
Looking ahead, have you set any new goals, any different goals for this year than previous years?
Be better. Be better with plate discipline. Be better with getting on base. Be better in situations. Be better defensively. Be better on bases. Be better in the clubhouse, … on the bench. Just be a better teammate overall. You can't just say I want to improve on one factor. You need to improve in everything. I always consider myself under construction, like a new website.
You just try and better yourself and understand what it takes to motivate not just yourself but the people around you.
As the team gets younger, do you feel more responsibility to lead? You already lead, but do you feel you have even more responsibility this year?
No, and the reason I say that is because it's not just me. I'm not the only leader on this team. We've got some leaders. We've got some guys who will speak up, and that's beautiful to where it's not just, “Oh, you've got to say something.” No, we've got [Matt] Wieters, [Darren] O'Day, [Chris Davis], Tommy [Hunter], Hardy. [Manny] Machado is on the younger side, but he knows what it takes to play at this level and to lead at this level. We cover the full realm. I'm not going to go and police the pitchers about something. That's not my realm. We have veteran pitchers who do that. Position players … that's more of my realm. I will make sure that myself, CD, Wieters and Hardy, we make sure we keep order in our clubhouse. You've seen it. We have order. It's always something fun going on, because it's a game. It's a baseball game. When you lose track of a game, it's kind of stressful. I think by us always keeping a loose clubhouse, it helps us between the lines.