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 first of a four-part interview from earlier this spring.
You've been part of a winning culture here for the last several years. You have most of the components of that team back this year, but you've got 11 potential free agents who could leave at the end of this season. Does that give you and the team any extra sense of urgency that you want to get it done this year?
Free agency is inevitable for everybody. If you play long enough, you're going to reach free agency. I don't think that's something we can concern ourselves with the first week of spring training. I know there are guys who would love to be here long term. I know there are guys — you know, it's the business — you want to see free agency and see what that market offers, what your value is, and I completely understand that. Until then, I think our focus, everybody's focus, is now. I don't think anybody has a sense of urgency as, "We need to win now, or else." We need to win now because there's no other point and no other time. Sports are for the now instead of thinking down the road. It's all about the now to me.
Knowing how competitive you are, I assume you want to win every year. You're going to be here until 2018 at the very least. The only players locked long term are you, J.J. Hardy and Ubaldo Jimenez. After what you do this year, is there any long-term concern for you that you want to keep this thing rolling?
I love the guys that we have, our core guys. They always say core, meaning three or four guys. I think we have six, seven or maybe even eight. I've enjoyed my time here. I've seen a lot and grown up a lot here in the last seven years, going on eight years. My future — I know I've got four more years, like the president. Besides that, that's all out of my hands.
We've got some guys who are under team control until '18, until I'm a free agent also. We've got guys that are going to be here, no matter what, and some guys who are going to hit free agency, but we do have some control over a lot of guys.
Last year at this time, the negative predictions about the team by the national media kind of got under your skin. This year, you seem to almost be welcoming the same negative predictions after you proved them wrong the last two or three years.
I don't get it. Somebody has to have a job. [Of] all the things that come with sports these days, one thing they don't take into consideration is the in-game live factor. They watch the game on TV and think that an equation is going to figure out this game. No. This game is made up of all shapes and sizes. You've got Jose Altuve at 5-5 and Mark Hendrickson at 6-9. In between there, you've got a lot of talent. But no, you've got to play the game this way, this certain way. If it's not done this way, it's not going to happen. I think that's total B.S. The game has been flourishing because it has so many intangibles to it. You can't predict a sport. You can't. But for some odd reason, people try to. I don't get it. People ask me, "Who do you think will win the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight?" I say, "I'll tell you after the fight's over." Do I look like Nostradamus? [Heck] no. But these people want to think that, "I went to Cornell, therefore I can see the future." OK, hell, you should plan your future a little bit better then.
Do you have any interest in sabermetrics? Do you think it's interesting at all?
I understand what it is. It gives you an idea of a player's ability. It doesn't tell you everything about the player. You have to watch the game. You still have to watch the game. If people who are into sabermetrics put in the live part of the game, like understanding that, "Big Papi's hitting, so I'm going to have to shift over this way, as opposed to if [Mike] Napoli's hitting, I might have to be somewhere completely opposite." They just take into consideration that a hitter's in the box. There are factors in baseball. The pitcher's velocity — one day, one pitcher can be at 92, 95 [mph]. His next start could be 90, 93. One start, he could be sitting 94, 96, 97. He could be feeling good. You have to take all these factors into consideration.
So you talk about sabermetrics, but at the end of the day, I'm going to go off what I've seen and what the batter is probably going to do. Our scouting reports, they show something live. They show the guy hitting the ball, as opposed to, "You're supposed to be right there because the center fielder is supposed to be playing right there." No, the center fielder is supposed to be where they play, not where someone draws an X and says, "This is where the center fielder is supposed to be."