Adam Jones has no idea whether his annual #StayHungry Purple Tailgate will extend to a seventh year in 2019. He doesn’t know where he’ll be playing and whether it will be convenient to get back to Baltimore.
Free agency tends to drape a person in uncertainty.
Here’s a fact: Today’s event raised a record amount of $125,010 for the Boys and Girls Club of Baltimore and the Living Classrooms Foundation. Food, drinks, live music and temperatures that climbed into the 60s created the perfect party atmosphere near M&T Bank Stadium.
Here’s another fact: Jones isn’t sweating his first dive into the free agent pool.
“It’s like the senior that some people want that not everybody wants as opposed to the sophomore that everybody wants,” he said.
“I take it back when I was in high school and getting flirted with a little bit. But at the same time, I’ve got no stress. The Orioles have been good to me financially over my career. I just know that I have a lot to offer someone else and I have a lot of gas in the tank, and I want to play at least four or five more years, because at the end of the day my boys are starting to understand what’s going on with me and they’re proud of Daddy. So it’s cool to go out there and work hard with them, and they’re able to come work out with me now.
“It’s fun to be able to share what I’ve been able to offer many with my little boys.”
The Orioles have a new head of baseball operations in Mike Elias, and Jones said he hasn’t heard from them since the end of the season. No attempts have been made to discuss a new contract.
“I know of Mike Elias,” Jones said. “I think we’ve met probably a few times on the field. I’m not sure. I’ve met so many people.
“They’re in good hands, obviously with what Houston has done. You look at the last 10 years, from losing 100 games for a couple seasons and then winning the championship and being one of the most formidable teams in the American League and all of baseball. They are a great team. Obviously, the information they have and the leadership they have up in the front office has trickled down to the players. I think they’re in good hands right now.”
The event closed with Jones on stage with his family, holding up a giant check, and fans waiting to find out who posted the winning silent auction bids to get pied by the five-time All-Star.
“I think everybody’s going to be surprised at the amount we raised, but it’s bigger than that,” Jones said. “It’s the simple fact of the people here have appreciated what I’ve done on the field and first and foremost in the community, what me and my wife (Audie) have been able to accomplish. It’s been great. I’ve always said it’s a Baltimore-helping-Baltimore type of thing and it’s just grown bigger.
“We just try to put on a good event for a great cause, and it’s just gotten bigger and bigger because the people of Baltimore have understood what their impact on their own city and community can do. And if you look at it over the last 11 years since I’ve been here, downtown Baltimore has grown a lot. As we look at the buildings that have been put up around us and have been torn down, you see that there’s a lot of influence going in this city and it’s going to be part of the community in the next generation.”
Jones has no idea if he’ll be in the same spot next year, surrounded by family, friends and fans.
“That’s the million dollar question,” he said. “We’ll address that when we see what the future holds for me personally. It’s great. It will be hard to turn away, but it also has to be very convenient for myself at the same time.”
Jones wasn’t treating today as a goodbye, though he kept hearing fans yelling how much they’ll miss him and imploring him to re-sign with the Orioles.
“Nothing is ever a goodbye,” he said. “I’m always a flight away from anything, so I always think that nothing is ever a goodbye in that regard.”
Mancini, who also showed up last year, tried to put into words what Jones has meant to the community.
“It’s hard to describe,” Mancini said. “The fact that he’s a free agent and he’s still doing this for the city of Baltimore speaks volumes about the guy that he is and what the city means to him and what he means to the city. It’s incredible.”
Said Rickard: “I just heard all the hype about Adam’s tailgates and the fundraiser and what he does for the city. It’s just something I want to be a part of.”
Another first-timer was Jones’ mother, Andrea Bradley, who traveled from San Diego to attend the party. She fought back tears as she spoke about her son’s work on and off the field and how the business of baseball likely will lead him to another city.
“I love Baltimore and he loves Baltimore,” she said. “That hurts my heart.”
Asked whether she was proud of him for the money raised today, she said without hesitation, “I’m always proud of him.”