At Bat with Jonesy: Chad Jones

Josh Jones: What does baseball mean to you?

Chad Jones: As cliché as it may sound, baseball means the world to me. Most of what I do evolves around the sport—my workouts, how I eat, what I watch and read, what I talk about. The sport has had me hooked since age 5 and won’t let me go. I’m sure if you asked anyone of my family members or friends to describe me, love for baseball would be an apparent answer somewhere in their description. That love has grown stronger and stronger as I’ve gotten older. The smells, freshly cut grass, dirty uniforms, noise of the crowd, crack of the bat, pop in the glove from a hard throw, adrenaline pumping in your veins; you name it, I love it.

jonesc10-2To say I’ve played at a professional level is pretty surreal. I was always the underdog, but proved that through hard work, discipline, and dedication, anything is possible. That’s also why I believe the sport is widely loved throughout the world. It is not only an entertaining competitive sport requiring a great amount of skill/talent, but it brings out the best in people. The player(s) learn a great amount responsibility, humility, dedication, discipline, hard work, perseverance, and patience. All of which are needed, in my opinion, to succeed in life. Like the game, life is full of ups and downs. It’s a roller coaster ride that plays with your emotions. Whether you win or lose, if you can’t control those emotions and you let them get the best of you, it’s going to be a struggle.

Baseball has pushed me to always better myself—in the game and in life. It has made me who I am today. There is no settling. The more eager I am to get better, the more likely I am to succeed.

Who inspired you to take up the sport of baseball?

Growing up in a family of boys, sports was very prominent. The inspiration to play came fairly easy. But my ultimate inspiration was my father, Larry. My brothers would probably say the same thing. He had a passion for sports, and in the game of baseball, was known to be a great pitcher back in his day. We were constantly watching baseball, practicing in the backyard, and talking baseball.

My mother used to tell me that my Dad had a good shot to play professionally but hurt his thumb real bad while pitching in college, then hurt his knee while playing basketball (he was a great basketball player as well, the starting point guard to an undefeated high school team that won state in 1979). The injuries and the combination of being a father at an early age put his dream to play professionally on hold. He never did fulfill that dream. I wouldn’t say that alone made me work especially hard to get to that level in baseball, but it was definitely a factor.

 What are your first memories of the game?

My first memories consisted of going to my older brother’s games. It wouldn’t take long for my twin brother and I to go play ourselves in a nearby field or whatever. Sometimes we would play with our close friends who had an older brother the same age as ours. It was almost certain that whatever game we would play, whether it was home run derby, over the line, etc., the game would get intense and very competitive.

The same applied to the games I would play with my brother’s and Dad in our backyard. We would play wiffle ball baseball for HOURS and HOURS, and those games were taken seriously. If you weren’t throwing your hardest (or filthiest) or putting good swings on the ball, something was wrong. We even had a certain way we taped our wiffle ball bats (those really light yellow ones).

It was almost like an art form, also taken very seriously. My brother’s and I would run through hundreds of wiffle balls through the years and a ton of duct tape as well! There were houses to the left and right of us, and directly behind our house was a field of longer grass and sticker bushes. So whenever a ball went over the fence, whether it was from a home run that went in the yard’s of either one of our neighbors, or a foul ball going into the field and sticker bushes, we would all fight over who had to go get them. Sometimes we would revert to rock, paper, scissors to get someone to go, but for the most part, since my twin and I were the youngest, we’d go get em.

It almost felt like a secret mission, something out of the Sandlot, just without the dog.

Getting to the ball in the backyard’s without our neighbors seeing us so we didn’t have to hear from them or be told we are ruining their lawn. A lot of times we would come up with a game plan and exactly how to execute it. I must say we got pretty clever.

Those were the first memories and the best memories. That’s where we perfected our game and had lots of fun! My Mom would always say to me before a big game, even in pro ball, “just pretend you’re playing with your brothers in the backyard.” Thanks Mom, it really did help.

What are the major challenges you have faced throughout your career?

In a game where you can fail 7 out of 10 times and still be successful, you must be good at dealing with failure. Take the good from the bad, and learn from it. Throughout my career, I’ve faced numerous challenges, on and off the field. Within the game, I’d say the biggest challenge for me was learning to have confidence in myself and learning how to handle adversity.

As a pitcher, if you lack confidence, the other team can see that and will make you pay. I was constantly trying to learn from my coaches, teammates, and others throughout my career–trying to perfect my mechanics, my delivery, my mental attitude, etc.. But the moment I started to get hit around, my confidence packed its bags and left me. I felt exposed and that no matter what I threw them, it was being hit hard. There was no fooling them.

Eventually as I got older and matured, with the help of my coaches and teammates, I gained that confidence needed in order for me to be successful consistently. From then on whenever things went wrong, I didn’t panic and would dig deeper. This helped me become the pitcher I wanted to be. Off the field I have faced some challenges within my family, as I’m sure everyone does as well. Baseball was and still is an escape for me. It helped me focus on what I loved rather than burden myself with the negatives of what was going on.

I’m thankful to have not suffered any major injury to my arm or any other part of my body throughout the years. I’ve also been blessed with playing for great organizations and was hosted by some awesome people in the past. That made it so much easier to be so far away from the people I love for so long.

Describe your successes and proudest moments?

My successes and proudest moments. Well before I get into numbers, to me, my biggest success, and what I’m most proud of is the pitcher I have become. I’m proud to have played where I have and to have achieved what I have. When I look back to my first year in college, I wouldn’t have thought I would have played for so long and been successful at it. I was an immature hot head who cared more about numbers than anything.

When I transferred to a 4 year college, I came to realize my talent and that what I was doing wasn’t going to work. It wouldn’t have gotten me far. So I became a sponge you can say to my coaches and teammates and what they had to say, always had a positive attitude, a great work ethic, and learned to trust myself.

My first year at George Fox University, I had a great year: going 8-2 with a single season record 7 saves as a closer. I posted an ERA of 2.17 and set another record of appearances. That year I earned First Team All-NWC honor and Third Team All-West Region honor. It really opened my eyes to my possibility. The next year wasn’t as good but I still led the team in ERA with 3.10, went 3-3 with 4 saves to set a school record (11) saves at GFU.

The next two summers I played up in Saskatchewan, Canada for an collegiate team. The first year I posted a 0.00 ERA with 30+ innings. I earned Rookie of the Year and we won the league championship. The next summer, 2011, was a great summer for me. I had a 5-2 record, with an ERA of 1.17 and had 63 strikeouts in 39.1 innings. This earned me Pitcher of the Year for the league. Something I’m very proud of because there was a lot of talent in that league and many other pitchers that could have easily earned that honor.

1237913_717593621590534_791491296_aThose collegiate summers helped me ink a pro contract with a team based out of Quebec City, QC. I earned Rookie of the Year for my team in 2012 with a 2.97 ERA and helped our team win the organization’s fourth straight championship. This last year in 2013, I struggled a little bit more but ended well. I posted a 4.93 ERA and we won the fifth straight championship.

Again I can’t stress enough how proud I am to have become a pitcher who leads by example, doesn’t panic in adversity, and continues to learn. The numbers are great but I am successful without them.

What did it take for you to mentally, emotionally and physically prepare for an appearance whether it be a start or relief appearance? 

As a closer all of college and relief pitcher since then, it was very important for me to stay focused throughout the whole game. I learned the other team’s weaknesses and when I went in it was my goal to expose those weaknesses. (That’s what I preach now!) It’s easy to get caught up in the game and let your emotions get the best of you but that was what I tried to control.

When I went in, I wanted teams to see that I was serious but calm. I was very confident. Before an appearance, I would get my blood rushing with sprints, stretches with my band for my arm, and I would mentally picture each at bat with the other team’s hitters. I would come in and give it my all. They were seeing my best.

Of course if I threw the day before or even two days before, I would do a lot of running but also a lot stretching. During a couple days off, I would build my arm strength and kept my lower body and core in great shape. But I also gave it some rest. I didn’t want to overdue anything, so I maybe took a day off or went really light for two days.

While in pro ball, I started about 15 or so games in my 2 years. I learned that I needed to conserve my energy a lot more than coming in for relief. I would again visualize at bats, listen to music (anything that got me pumped up), and do my stretches and runs. A couple hours before the game, I would read to help keep me calm. This would help me control my nerves.

What toll did it take to be away from your family?

Being away from my family and girlfriend (wife now) was very tough. You always think it’ll be easier because you’ve done it before, but the truth is it never is. There were numerous times where I felt I needed them but couldn’t. It’s even more difficult when you can’t talk to anyone, and more often than I wanted this was the case.

In order for me to talk to anyone from the U.S., I had to have wifi or be in the states. Sometimes wifi wouldn’t be available for days, and we would have a couple series’ at home. So those were some frustrating days. But it was very comforting knowing I had lots of support for what I was doing back home. I definitely took advantage of being in the states, and I never take any moment for granted when I’m here now. It teaches you to appreciate what you have.

indians chad jonesDescribe your feelings of chasing your dream to play pro ball?

Every young ball player’s dream is to play professionally. I never thought I’d play so far away in Canada, but am grateful for the opportunity and will never forget those memories. As I’ve said before, to say I have played professionally is a surreal feeling. You feel like you are a part of an elite group of people when really we are all just regular people. With that said, you can see the difference between pro and college/high school baseball. It definitely requires a lot of talent and baseball knowledge. It’s not for everybody and surely isn’t an easy thing to accomplish.

Even after playing pro ball for a while, I never settled. I was proud for what I’ve accomplished and where I was, but that wasn’t enough. To be more successful, you have to continue to work harder than the other guys. My thought process was this: if you continue to work hard and pursue your dream, eventually you will earn your way up the ladder and get that opportunity.

It was an emotional roller coaster at times. A lot of ups and downs, but I wouldn’t have asked for different. My pursuit has taken me to places I never thought possible. I’ve met a lot of great people, played for some great people, and have become a better baseball player in the process. It has molded who I am today. I will look upon these days later in my life and smile.