Adam Jones: Future Star

The Seattle Mariners selected Adam Jones with their first pick in the 2003 June draft, and since then the 18-year-old strong-armed shortstop had done nothing but impress. Brad Hartmann caught up to Jones recently to talk baseball in this exclusive.

Adam Jones was the Seattle Mariners first-round selection in the 2003 June draft, an athlete out of Morse High in San Diego with jaw-dropping talent and an explosive arm to go with it. Scouts projected him both as a pitcher and as shortstop; thus far the M's organization has given the 18-year-old a chance to make a name for himself in the six-hole.

Jones was introduced to the game of baseball at age 12, and just like many youngsters his dream was to make it big to the major leagues. For Jones, that fantasy may well one day become a reality, but for now he finds himself with the Seattle's Mid-A Affiliate, the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, still years away from the big show.

After signing with the Mariners last summer, Jones reported to Peoria for 28 games, where he got his first chance to make an impression as a shortstop. All he did was bat .284 with five doubles, one triple and five stolen bases, enough to earn a Sept. 2 promotion to Low-A Everett. He went 6-for-13 in three games with the Aqua Sox, wrapping up a successful initial campaign.

"In Peoria I learned how to play pro ball, "said Jones. "They tell you what you don't want to hear and that's something that you need. They let you know when you do something wrong. In high school if you do something wrong they were like everything is okay, but in Peoria they got into our face and you have to be a man about it.

"And that's what I like."

Jones got a good glimpse inside the life of a big leaguer last month while working out with the Mariners at their Spring Training facilities in Peoria, Arizona. There in the Valley of the Sun, he got advice from Pat Borders, the 1992 World Series MVP with Toronto and a veteran of over 12 years major league experience. Borders was there with answers to the youngster's questions.

"I have always looked up to guys like (Pat) Borders, Dave Hanson and Mark McLemore, "said Jones. "(Pat) Borders took me under his wing in big league camp and we talked a lot of baseball. (Mark) McLemore is like a brother to me. Ever since I was drafted we have kept in close contract. We went to the same school and had the same senior year English teacher."

The road ahead won't necessarily be easy for Jones, who will have to continually prove his abilities both in the field and at the plate to remain at the shortstop position. Any prolonged struggles, and the M's could decide his future would be better as a pitcher. He understands the challenge, and is ready for it.

"In big league camp I worked my butt off so I can be a better player,"said Jones. "I worked on my feet, my hands, and my entire game to become a better player."

In his first two weeks as a Timber Rattler, Jones says he is enjoying every moment not only because he loves the game of baseball, but also because he loves the fans.

The fans are great,"he said. "You go to cities that appreciate baseball. In San Diego everyone loves basketball. (It) is a basketball city and baseball isn't appreciated as much, but when you come out to Wisconsin it's a small town where everyone comes here to support baseball that's real good to know."

With a team full of promising young players, Jones says he thinks the Timber Rattlers have a chance to be very good in 2004.

We have a great team, he said. Most of the players do what they do because it comes second nature to them. We have to come out and show that we can play the game and not worry about numbers and stats."

The promising 6-foot-2, 180-pound shortstop is both optimistic and excited not only about the season ahead, but his future as well; he maintains hopes that his big league dreams will come true within the next three years. Through nine games, Jones is batting .233 with seven hits- four of which have been for doubles - and three RBI. Not a bad start for a teenager in the pitcher-friendly Midwest League.

As for goals this season?

"I don't have numbers in my head," Jones said. "I just basically have to put up good and solid numbers, then you can say, 'wow he is doing good and contributing to the team.' Even if I go 0-4 hopefully two of the outs are advancing runners into scoring position."

While young, raw and still relatively new to the game, Jones already has one thing straight; the team concept. That will mean nothing but good things for his future in the organization.

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