Zach Wilt: Appreciating every moment with Adam Jones

The next era of Orioles baseball has officially begun. In the last couple of weeks, the front office has indicated that a full rebuild is officially underway. Manny Machado, Zach Britton, Kevin Gausman, Darren O’Day, Brad Brach and Jonathan Schoop were all dealt before the non-waiver trade deadline on July 31. It was one of the craziest days I can remember in Orioles history. In return, the Birds have stockpiled minor league prospects and international signing bonus slot money to build up the farm system, and hopefully groom and grow a long-term winner at the big league level.

This process is going to take some time and fans will have to endure some grueling seasons before the Orioles get back to being a contender in the American League East. Your current favorite player probably won’t be on the next winning O’s club -- they might not be on the one taking the field tonight. After a flurry of trades, remaining veterans in the Birds clubhouse have to be wondering when they are next. If Baltimore was milling to move Schoop, a 26-year-old All-Star second baseman who came up through the organization and has two more years of controllability, no one is off limits.

Recent reports have indicated that the Orioles were looking to trade veteran outfielder Adam Jones, the clubhouse leader and face of the franchise, but Jones used his 10-5 rights to block a trade. It’s hard to imagine an Orioles team without Jones and before this trade deadline, I expected that Jones would sign a deal that would enable him to retire in black and orange. Even during a rebuild, I expected that Jones would want to see it through and be a part of mentoring the next generation of Orioles. Now it’s hard to see him being offered that type of deal.

Jones has meant so much to the Orioles over his 13 seasons in Baltimore. He arrived from Seattle in one of the game’s most historically lopsided trades and developed into a five-time All-Star and four-time Gold Glove winner who was the cornerstone piece that turned the Orioles from a 64-game winner in 2009 to a 93-game winner in 2012. Jones made the O’s relevant again and committed to them long-term by signing a six-year deal before he hit free agency that took him through the 2018 season. Jones could have explored the market and may have even been offered more from another club, but he chose to remain in Baltimore and stayed committed to winning to championship.

Over the years, I’ve been impressed by Jones off the field as much as I have on it. As a leader in the clubhouse, he’s the guy that answers the hard questions after tough losses and remains determined to win. He’s talked about difficult topics, like being the target of a racial slur in Boston or weighing in on the unrest in Baltimore during the riots in 2015. His peers in baseball have respected him for years. This season marked Jones sixth time being the Orioles recipient of the Heart and Hustle Award for embodying the value, spirit and traditions of baseball.

Jones entered last night’s contest with an 11-game hitting streak, matching his season high from May 3-15. Coming into the game, he was hitting .386/.438/.523 with 11 RBIs since July 15. Despite his world changing around him, Jones is still the same hungry player he was in 2009. It will be difficult to see the Orioles without number 10 in centerfield. Over the next couple months, I am going to make a point of appreciating every moment with have left with Jones. He’s truly meant the world to my favorite team.

Zach Wilt blogs about the Orioles at Baltimore Sports Report. Follow him on Twitter: @zach_wilt. His views appear here as part of MASNsports.com’s season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our pages. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.

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