Following a defiant seventh-round knockout of previously unbeaten Jose Pedraza (22-1, 12...
Swing Away: Jeremy Jones Returns To N.C. A&T’s Lineup
PIKESVILLE, Md.– The offer was tempting. The decision was difficult. Jeremy Jones of North Carolina A&T was the 2005 Black College Baseball Player of the Year and MEAC Player of the Year as a sophomore.
He batted .402 with a school-record 82 hits in helping the Aggies win the conference and gain their first bid to the NCAA Tournament. He wasn’t able to deliver an encore performance, however, as he suffered a broken hamate bone in his hand during batting practice and was forced to miss the 2006 season.
Despite that setback, the Colorado Rockies organization thought enough of his 2005 numbers to take a chance on him. The Rockies drafted Jones in the 25th round last spring.
“It was an opportunity for a team who believed in his talent before anyone else got him,” said Aggies coach Keith Shumate. “They just wanted to get his rights.”
But what to do? Jones had the chance to fulfill the dream of every young baseball player: to play professionally and have a shot at making the Major Leagues. If he didn’t go, would he be forgotten by the pros the next year?
Then there was the flipside: If he did go, what would he miss in college? He was on track to complete his degree in fitness and wellness — what Jones calls his No. 1 goal — and the thought of missing a whole season with the first significant injury of his career gnawed at him. Is that how he wanted to end his run at A&T?
“It was real tough,” said Jones. “It was probably the toughest summer I ever had. But I felt I owed that one last season to my team.”
So, Jones is back for his redshirt junior season. He’s eager to show that the injury has not affected his ability, and he’s eager to prove to the rest of the conference that the Aggies are serious about making a run at the MEAC title.
“I think we’re going to shock a lot of people,” said Jones. “I think we’re going to win a lot more games than people give us credit for.”
Jones is certainly capable of helping the Aggies live up to that expectation. For his career, Jones is hitting .368 with a .528 slugging percentage, nine homers and 73 RBIs. But there will be some rust to knock off.
When he first discovered his hand injury last season, he thought it was minor and would heal after a few days’ rest. As it turned out, the injury was more serious. Jones decided to forego his junior season and have surgery to get the bone removed.
After two months of rehab, it was another three months before Jones was able to swing the bat with the same power and speed that had made him such a feared hitter. With the Aggies set to play their first game Feb. 21 at North Carolina State, Jones declared that he is completely healthy.
“I’m pretty anxious. I’ve been working hard to get my body back into shape,” said Jones. “A year off seemed like an eternity.”
Jones aims to make up for lost time. And while teammate and roommate Charlie Gamble, who broke Jones’ team record last season with 84 hits, wound up on the Wallace Watch list for national player of the year honors, Jones aims to show that he’s still one of the top baseball players in the nation.
“Jeremy kind of fell off the radar with his injury,” said Shumate. “But I think all the scouts know of him. He has great ‘hitability’ and they think he has some untapped power. He’s a lefty with above-average bat speed. I think he has some unfinished business.”
Because he didn’t sign with the Rockies, Jones’ name will go back into the draft this spring, and he can be chosen by any team. He’s confident that he has what it takes to be drafted again and doesn’t regret for a moment his decision to return to Greensboro.
“I want to prove my worth,” he said. “I didn’t want to take a slotted amount of money for the 25th round. I want to see how far my talent can take me.”
The Aggies are no doubt happy to come along for the ride.