SPORTS HEADLINES

Persistence pays off; Senior makes most of first chance for playing time

By Richard Greene | Published Saturday, March 22, 2014

After nearly being cut as a freshman and rarely getting on the field as a junior due to an injury, Josh Jones never quit believing in himself.

“I’ve played since I was a kid and it’s always been my favorite sport,” said the 6-4 Jones. “I never thought about quitting. I was always wanting to come out here and have fun.”

Rising to Ocassion

RISING TO OCCASION – Decatur’s Josh Jones leads the Eagles in hitting in his first extended playing time during his four years in the program. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Jones’ perseverance is paying off for him and the Decatur Eagles. The senior designated hitter leads the Eagles with a .400 batting average. His on-base percentage plus slugging percentage of .905 ranks second on the team. He ranks third on the team in percentage of quality at-bats.

“I’ve been waiting for my turn. Now, it’s here and I’m trying to take advantage of it,” Jones said.

Decatur coach Chris Carter sums up Jones with one word – persistence.

“That’s a great word for Josh, after all he’s been through. From not playing at all and an injury to now being a big part of the team,” Carter said. “He’s been persistent and worked through a lot to be where he’s at. As a coach, you sometimes wish you had nine Joshes.”

That wasn’t the case three years ago when Jones, who was seven inches shorter, arrived for tryouts.

“Three years ago, he was at the point where we were deciding whether to cut him at tryouts,” Carter admitted. “But baseball was all he did athletically and we decided not to cut him.”

As Jones recalls, he didn’t play a lot that year. The following year, he grew five inches and began to find the field on the junior varsity.

Last year, Jones expected to earn a spot in the Eagles’ lineup. But tendinitis in his forearm sidelined him early in the year.

“By the time I was ready, district had started, and it’s hard to put someone in the lineup that has not played,” Jones said.

But that history did not leave Jones discouraged entering his senior season.

Instead he adopted the approach he developed over the summer, which has paid off for him.

“This summer I had a couple of games where I just relaxed and just tried to hit the ball where they weren’t,” Jones said. “I wasn’t trying to do too much. When I did that, I started hitting.”

He says that’s the biggest difference for him this season.

“I’m relaxed and not trying to prove myself,” he said. “Before, I put too much pressure on myself.”

Carter said that approach and added strength have turned Jones into a quality hitter.

“From year to year, he’s gotten bigger and stronger,” Carter said. “The biggest thing is his strength with the physical workouts he’s done in the offseason.

“He’s also smart. Intelligence can carry you a long ways in the game of baseball.”

Along with being a solid hitter for the Eagles, Jones has provided a quality arm in relief. He’s struck out 14 in 18 innings of work while allowing 23 hits and 10 earned runs.

After going down the long road to get where he’s at, Jones is now trying to help younger players.

“There’s one freshman that’s not getting to play much. I’ve told him that I didn’t get to play much my freshman year and to keep working and his time will come,” Jones said.

“It’s a crazy game. Anything can happen in baseball.”

As long as you’re persistent like Jones and never give up.

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