A player at Decatur High School, Jones had been coming to Auburn's camps for several years, but really stood out prior to his senior year. Showing that he was capable of playing on the next level while taking part in a camp at Plainsman Park, Jones earned a scholarship offer from the Tigers.
Signing the outfielder has proven to be a wise decision for Auburn as Jones has been strong at the plate for the Tigers this season after playing mostly in a reserve role his first three years. Hitting .286 with 10 home runs, 11 doubles and 47 RBI, Jones is one of the cogs in an offense that has hit a school record 100 home runs this season. He says for him the biggest jump-start to his career took place at one of Auburn's summer camps.
"It really helped me out a lot because I always dreamed of coming to Auburn and playing," Jones says. "I have been rooting for Auburn and have family ties to Auburn. That was my goal, to come here and play baseball. I wasn't being recruited or anything, but I came to the Christmas Camp my senior year and did pretty well. I talked to some of the coaches and everything ended up falling into place for me.
"Without a doubt I wouldn't be here on the baseball team if it wasn't for the baseball camp," he adds. "I really believe that. It's something I prayed about and God really helped me out. It definitely would not have happened if it had not come here for the camp that Christmas."
Kelley pitches against Florida State in Tallahassee early in the 2009 season.
Just like Jones, Kelley wasn't much of a factor for the Tigers his first two years on campus, but has come on strong as a redshirt sophomore. In nine appearances he has thrown 21 innings with an ERA of 3.86, the best earned run average on the team for anyone over 15 innings this season. Like Jones, he credits his baseball career to making a wise choice to attend one of Auburn's summer camps before his senior season.
"Just growing up and coming here and seeing the players work with the kids, now I'm in their shoes and it's great," Kelley says. "I always saw them as a hero. Just growing up and being able to be a part of that and work with the coaches on the college level was a good feeling and a great experience.
"It really helped me," Kelley says. "The summer before my senior year the coaches watched me throw at a camp. Just being able to pitch in front of them really helped. I got to get some confidence pitching in a big stadium. It was great."
Like Jones and Kelley, this year will give plenty of hopeful players the opportunity to show their stuff and also get coaching from Auburn's first-year staff. Coach John Pawlowski, pitching coach Scott Foxhall, assistant coach Matt Heath and volunteer assistant Jeff Duncan will be on hand to work with the players in all areas beginning with the Exposure Camp on July 12-15. It is designed as a camp to give serious 7th-12th graders four days to showcase their abilities and work on their games.
Next up is the Youth All-Star Camp on July 17-19 open to ages 7-12. It's a camp designed to be instructional with drills and games, but also fun challenges designed to make it a great time for the campers.
The final individual camp is the AU Elite Experience on July 19-23. It is a hands-on camp with only 44 players accepted. Auburn's coaching staff will lead and instruct drills as well as provide video analysis of the campers hitting, fielding, and pitching. Each camper will be issued a locker, wear an Auburn uniform, and have their laundry done each day just like a regular player.
Pawlowski says he and his staff are looking forward to not only seeing players who have an interest in Auburn up close and personal, but are also ready to help them improve their games heading into the next year of playing.
"It provides a great opportunity for kids not only to learn, but to learn fundamentals of baseball and have a great experience here," Pawlowski says. "From our end, a coach's standpoint, it provides us an opportunity to see kids that maybe we wouldn't have a chance to watch play. It gives us a chance to get to know kids. You spend time with kids and get to see what their make up is and actually have a chance to work with them.
"There are a lot of kids across the country who show up at programs because they went to their camps. It's a great opportunity and if they want to be a part of Auburn I encourage them to come to our camps because we can't get out to see everybody."
For more information on the Auburn Baseball Academy individual and team camps, contact Scott Duval in the baseball office at (334) 844-4975 or you can visit the website