SARASOTA, FLA. — Orioles center fielder Adam Jones returns from the World Baseball Classic with a burnished reputation as one of the game's stars and great leaders, owed in part to the front-man role he played for the title-winning United States team.
Jones himself doesn't feel like he did anything outside of his usual game to earn that, but there's no denying he elevated his stock in March with the U.S. team's run — and he sees parallels with what makes the Orioles tick, too.
"I think it was just the world seeing me in a different light — different players seeing me in a different light," Jones said. "Like I said, I didn't do anything different than I do in the clubhouse here. I just tried to lead by example. I probably was a little more vocal during the WBC, just because I'm ramped up and it's a different pride factor at this point. I just do the same thing I do in this clubhouse, but now I think the world has gotten to see how the Orioles have been successful the last five years. It's not just me, obviously, but the leadership, the way you play the game — you can't quantify that in any equations.
"I see myself as the same player — same person, same teammate. I'm going to push the guy behind me and the guy in front of me to do the job if I didn't get it done and I'm going to be on the top step cheering you on. That's how I played the game, and that's how I see the difference in our makeup with the Orioles the last five years — guys are not me, me, me, I, I, I. It's us. When you get that from all 25 guys, I mean, good things tend to happen."
Jones, who played center field and batted second for the American team, had several marquee moments in the tournament. He had a walk-off hit in the United States' first game against Colombia, and ended the tournament with two home runs, five RBIs and one iconic catch over the center-field wall to rob teammate Manny Machado of a home run in an elimination game against the Dominican Republic.
He acknowledged the catch meant more than any old play simply because of the team he was representing.
"Pretty cool catch, pretty cool moment," Jones said. "I'm sorry it had to be my boy Manny. It's part of the game, part of that process. Pretty special to do it at home in San Diego. Obviously, it's on various outlets, but great picture with USA across my chest, right in front of the logo, right in front of some American flags. I mean, there's one guy, who doesn't look impressed at all by it sitting off to the left. But pretty special moment for that team."
Overall, he said the experience was the best of his life, at least in sports. And even on the possible negative aspects of the tournament — including the perception that the American team wasn't as good as it could be, and the controversy surrounding his comments that the planned celebrations in Puerto Rico were motivation — were spun with a smile.
Asked if the championship might mean better U.S. players next time, Jones said they were plenty good this time, and had the right players. And on Puerto Rican catcher Yadier Molina demanding an apology when Jones said the team used a planned parade back in Puerto Rico as added incentive before their 8-0 win in the championship game, Jones said he meant no disrespect and didn't say anything out of line.
"I don't think I said anything incorrect. I respect Yadi, and the whole Puerto Rican team, that nation," Jones said. "I've said that various times about every nation, what they're doing to promote baseball in their various countries. I said it about Colombia, who is a soccer powerhouse. I said, 'Watch out for them, because they're going to be good.' The Dominican, their following is grand, as you've seen in Miami and in San Diego when we played them both times. Puerto Ricans, I've said nothing more but respect for their country and the players. I know baseball has not been the big powerhouse in the last couple of years, but with [Carlos] Correa, with [Francisco] Lindor, various other young guys obviously following [Carlos] Beltran, Molina, some of the big names I was able to see out in San Diego and L.A., they're doing a great job for their country.
"I don't think I said anything wrong. I just said that what we've seen motivated us. It wasn't a slight at Puerto Rico by any stretch. I don't think I said anything wrong, and I would never disrespect a country because that would make totally no sense. And I'd appreciate if they'd stop cussing at me on my Instagram and Facebook fan page, because my mom is getting a little tired of it and I don't want her to respond to it."
As for the remaining week of spring training, Jones said he expected to ease back into things, noting he has had plenty of at-bats and played a lot of innings. He joked that the at-bats he needs might come in spring training still, but maybe even in Friday's exhibition game against Norfolk or Opening Day on April 3.