When Adam Jones committed to the Orioles with a six-year, $85 million contract extension in May 2012, he said he never saw himself wearing another uniform. The San Diego native spoke about how Baltimore was now his city.
But Sunday’s season finale against the Houston Astros at Camden Yards could be the current longest-tenured Oriole’s last game in black and orange. As the 33-year-old center fielder’s contract expires, the club has embarked on a tear-down and rebuild amid the worst year in its history.
If the Orioles had their way, Jones would have been part of the midseason purge that traded away standouts Manny Machado, Zach Britton, Jonathan Schoop, Kevin Gausman, Darren O’Day and Brad Brach. But his longevity in Baltimore worked to his advantage, his 10-and-5 rights — 10 years of major league service and at least five years with the same team — allowing him to block an attempted deal to the Philadelphia Phillies, extending his Orioles tenure by two months.
Nothing now stands in the way of a parting with the team that acquired Jones in the lopsided 2008 trade that sent starting pitcher Erik Bedard to the Seattle Mariners. He saw his share of losing early on, but Jones became a face of the Orioles’ resurgence from 2012 to 2016, when after 14 straight losing seasons he led a core that took the club to three playoff appearances in five years, including the American League Championship Series berth in 2014.
If this is indeed the end, Jones will leave behind a legacy exceeded by only a handful of Baltimore professional athletes. His on-field production puts him on many Orioles all-time top-10 lists. He has five All-Star appearances, four Gold Glove Awards for defensive excellence, and the three trips to the postseason.
Jones has been the de facto team captain for most of his time with the Orioles, his postgame victory pies a hallmark of the team’s most successful period.
But it is his efforts off the field that many will remember just as much. During his 11 years in Baltimore, Jones has offered his name, his time and his money to such causes as youth baseball and the Boys & Girls Clubs.
“From the start, this California native embraced Baltimore and never let go,” said former Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who regularly participated in community events with Jones. “It will be a sad day if Adam Jones leaves the O’s.”
He has won nearly every community service honor awarded to a major leaguer. In 2015, for instance, he was named Marvin Miller Man of the Year, an honor given by the Major League Baseball Players Association. That same year, Jones won the MLB Players Alumni Association Brooks Robinson Community Service Award and received the Governor’s Service Award from Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan.
Jones and his family — his wife, Audie, a Baltimore native, and their two sons — have made their home here. They live in the Reisterstown estate formerly owned by Cal Ripken Jr., recently moving from their home in Lutherville-Timonium.
“I have a hard time thinking of anyone filling his shoes in both regards — on the field and in the community with what he’s done here over the last 10-plus years,” Orioles first baseman Trey Mancini said. “You see how much everybody here loves him and respects him.”
Jones doesn’t like to talk much about his off-field contributions. He declined to be interviewed for this article, but partook in a group interview Saturday.
“I think it’s really cool, the impact that an individual can make,” Jones said. “We go into this as athletes and we try to live out our dream of just playing our sport, and when you have success, [with it] comes a lot of other avenues that you can bless other people. Me coming here bright-eyed, not knowing what was at stake for me, I came here and played my tail off and it turned into success. And the success on the field allowed me to meet with community leaders, community program advisors and to expand myself and my reach to different communities and different people, which has been I think the biggest blessing.”
Orioles manager Buck Showalter said he respects how Jones has given of himself off the field.
“He’s not ramming it down anybody’s throat, saying, ‘This is what you’ve got to do,’ ” Showalter said. “He’s always been a guy by example. And it means getting up sometimes after a night game and going to a YMCA or whatever. It’s getting up and being there for somebody, being someone that they can ask or reach out to and know there’s a chance they’re going to get a positive response.
“A lot of people talk the talk, but he backed it up.”
Jones, who grew up poor in a drug-ridden neighborhood in San Diego, made his mark on the city from early in his time with the Orioles. In 2012, he invited a Revitalizing Baseball in Inner Cities team in Northeast Baltimore to attend the news conference announcing his extension. The players from the Gardenville Grays league thought they were just attending an Orioles game. Jones asked the league president, Will Brown, for a team photo with all the Gardenville players’ signatures on it as a memento for his big day.
“The kids didn’t believe me when I said, ‘Hey, Adam Jones wants your autograph,’ ” Brown said. “They were like, ‘Get out of here.’ ”
Jones first became involved with the league while doing an Orioles youth clinic. He later was a speaker at the organization’s fundraising banquet. Every year, he’d donate signed bats and balls for the team’s auction. He became a frequent visitor to their games. He took them to the movies.
“These kids have been around him so much that they weren’t even star-struck by him anymore,” Brown said.
Jones’ contributions weren’t confined to baseball. He’s given more than $400,000 to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Metropolitan Baltimore, donating to renovate four different clubs in the city and sponsoring a scholarship.
For the sixth straight year, Jones will host a fundraising tailgate before a home Ravens game — this year’s event is Nov. 25 — that benefits the clubs. Last year’s event raised more than $100,000.
Y’landa Simmons, chief operating officer for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Metropolitan Baltimore, said every year the organization gets anonymous contributions from its Amazon wish list on Jones’ birthday.
“You can’t replace Adam,” she said. “We have a lot of people who give money … but he genuinely cares about our kids and about the Boys & Girls Club organization.”
The Orioles announced Thursday that Jones, his wife and the Orioles’ charitable foundation jointly donated $150,000 to six local nonprofits.
The politics of the game might not allow for a fitting farewell for Jones.
The Orioles went into this season hoping to compete for a playoff spot, but entered the year with a cloud of uncertainty. Jones was one of four key players eligible for free agency at the end of the 2018 season, while executive vice president Dan Duquette and Showalter were in the final year of their contracts. The season also began with an ownership power shift, with ailing managing partner Peter Angelos having ceded day-to-day control of the team to his sons, John and Louis.
It quickly became clear the Orioles weren’t going to contend in 2018 — they were 19 games under .500 just 35 games into the season — and after Memorial Day, the Orioles shifted their focus toward trading their pending free agents. Jones was told in June, according to a source, that trade options would be pursued. But another source said the question of whether Jones would approve a trade to the Phillies wasn’t broached with him until the week leading up to the July 31 nonwaiver trade deadline.
Jones had the right to veto a deal, and he did, initially citing his desire to avoid uprooting his family. Later, he said he wasn’t ready to be used in the part-time role the Phillies envisioned for him because he’s going into free agency.
Over the past month, the sparse home crowds at Camden Yards have cheered Jones before each of his at-bats, seeming to send him off with a thank-you. And Sunday, that reception will likely be the last opportunity to say farewell to one of the Orioles’ and Baltimore sports scene’s most impactful players.
The Orioles and Jones could agree to extend his tenure with the club — the team’s young overhauled roster could use an established leader — but the relationship appears to be fractured. Jones’ playing time has waned, and the organization is deep enough in outfield prospects that it’s unclear where he would fit on the field if he did return.
Lisa Krysiak, a season-ticket holder from Bel Air, had hoped to watch Jones play one last time Thursday night until rain intervened.
“The whole season has been brutal,” Krysiak said. “It’s a stronger feeling when it comes to Adam because of how much of a fixture he’s been here. He’s been the face of consistency for so long.
“I know it’s cyclical and it’s a business and this is what happens, but … this is a low point of my O’s fandom.”
Adam Jones file
Hometown: San Diego
Personal: married to Audie Fugett Jones; they have two sons
Drafted: First round in 2003, Seattle Mariners
MLB debut: July 14, 2006 for Mariners vs. Toronto Blue Jays
How acquired: Orioles acquired Jones, Chris Tillman, George Sherrill, Tony Butler and Kam Mickolio from the Mariners for Erik Bedard on Feb. 8, 2008
Stats with Orioles (entering Friday)
Batting average: .279
On-base percentage: .319
Slugging percentage: .459
Home runs: 263
Games started in center field: 1,439
Playoff appearances: 2012, 2014, 2016
All-Star appearances: 2009, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015
Gold Glove Awards: 2009, 2012, 2013, 2014