Zach Wilt: Praising Adam Jones’ time in Baltimore

A lot can change over a decade. For me personally, I have graduated from college, gotten married, worked three jobs and moved six different times including out of state. It’s been a whirlwind full of unexpected twists and turns, as life tends to be. For Baltimore Orioles center fielder Adam Jones, however, things have stayed relatively the same.

On Monday afternoon, Jones ran down the Orange Carpet at Camden Yards with the rest of his teammates, just as he had done the previous nine seasons. 2017 marks Jones’ 12th year in the big leagues and his tenth in an Orioles uniform. Around him, a lot of change has occurred. The O’s brought back the beloved cartoon bird logo, added a rooftop bar to Camden Yards and were able to snap a 14-year losing streak, all during Jones’ tenure. They have celebrated the 20th and now 25th anniversaries of Oriole Park at Camden Yards, been the American League’s winningest team over the last five seasons and crowned AL East champions once.

Jones predates executive vice president Dan Duquette and skipper Buck Showalter. He spent his first spring training in the Orioles’ old complex in Fort Lauderdale, before they moved to their amazing new facility in Sarasota. Jones has been in an Orioles uniform longer than any of his teammates. He shared a clubhouse with Melvin Mora, Brian Roberts, Aubrey Huff and Luke Scott, names that feel like they belong in an entirely different era of Orioles baseball. There’s been an amazing amount of change that has taken place around center field in Baltimore, but every time I look out in the outfield, he seems to be there and I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s reassuring as a fan and hard to even remember what life was like pre-Jones.

You could easily point to Jones’ arrival in the legendary Erik Bedard trade with the Seattle Mariners as the turning point for the Orioles. I often do. The Birds went from winning 68 games in 2008 to 93 just four years later when Jones was in the prime of his career at 26. Orioles fans watched this guy grow up and turn into a talented defender who can also hit for power. But Jones isn’t satisfied with just being the cornerstone for the Orioles’ turnaround, he still seems to find ways to show what a historically lopsided deal that was in favor of the O’s. Not only has he become a five-time All-Star and four-time Gold Glove Award winner in center field, he’s also assumed an incredibly important off the field role in the Birds clubhouse.

I view Jones as an ambassador for Baltimore and the voice of the Orioles. There’s no question that he’s the vocal leader for the team. He’s there to answer the tough questions during challenging stretches of the season and deliver praise to his teammates when things are going the Orioles’ way. His goals are lofty and he holds himself to the highest possible standard. His desire to bring a championship back to Baltimore is genuine and is truly a rare characteristic in pro athletes these days.

The world got to see what kind of leader Jones truly is during this spring’s World Baseball Classic. Jones took on the nickname, Captain America, for his heroics in the field and at the dish. His teammates often discussed how important a championship for the United States was for him and he delivered with some highlight moments, including an amazing home run-robbing catch against his O’s teammate Manny Machado.

Jim Palmer mentioned on Wednesday’s MASN broadcast that the Orioles have thanked Jones for the way he represented himself and the organization during the WBC. Everyone else got to see what we Orioles fans are privileged to watch all the time. It’s been an honor to watch this guy grow in Baltimore and to see the impact he’s had on the success of the Orioles. I don’t just mean in the standings, but also the tone that he sets for the club and for his continuously changing teammates. This team has changed for the better quite a bit over the last decade, and Jones has been one of the most important figures in that turnaround.

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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