David S. Driver
"Providing my byline by your deadline"
(click to expand)
June 19, 2008
By David Driver
For the Stafford County Sun, used with permission
STAFFORD — Head coach Jim Farr and assistant Ryan Wheeler left the College of William and Mary baseball program following the 2005 season.
That meant Jeff Jones of Stafford could have opted out of his letter-of-intent to play college baseball for the Tribe since the coaches who recruited him were no longer around.
“I didn’t feel the need to do that,” said Jones, who knows one player who did decide not attend William and Mary following the coaching change. “It ended up working out fine for me.”
Indeed it has.
Jones, a former Colonial Forge High School standout, is on track to graduate in 2009 with a degree in economics. And after two seasons of limited action, Jones had what he called a “breakout season” for William and Mary this spring. The outfielder played in 46 of 57 games (with 28 starts) and hit .327 with 36 hits in 110 at bats with 13 doubles, two homers and eight RBIs.
Jones led the team in steals with 16 (and was caught just three times), had an on-base average of .423 and a slugging mark of .518.
He did not make an error and had 42 putouts for William and Mary, which was 36-21 overall and qualified for the six-team Colonial Athletic Association tournament in Wilmington, N.C.
James Madison, the CAA champion, and UNC-Wilmington both qualified for the NCAA tournament. William and Mary beat regular-season champ UNC-W in the tourney in May before being eliminated by Towson.
Four of Jones’ college teammates were drafted in early June by Major League clubs. One of them was junior first baseman Mike Sheridan, a fifth-round pick of the Tampa Bay Rays. Others chosen were junior outfielder Ben Guez (19th round, Detroit), senior pitcher Sean Grieve (21st, Philadelphia) and senior pitcher Pat Kantakevich (22nd, Baltimore).
“I think every game we would have scouts watching those guys,” Jones said.
The Stafford resident has never been drafted but he hopes that changes following his senior season in Williamsburg in 2009.
“I was in no rush to get drafted. I want to develop,” he said. He said he “absolutely” wants a shot at pro ball.
To improve his game, Jones is playing this summer in the Cal Ripken Sr. College Baseball League with a team based in Silver Spring-Takoma Park, Md. The league uses wooden bats (colleges use aluminum, while the pros use wood) and attracts top college players from the Mid-Atlantic region and beyond.
The league is named for the late father of former Oriole Hall of Famer Cal Ripken. The elder Ripken was a long-time instructor in the minor leagues for Baltimore and a coach and manager at the Major League level.
“It is a competitive league. There is good pitching,” Jones said. “There are some good athletes.”
In games through June 14 he was hitting .292 for the Thunderbolts and had the only two homers for the team. Jones had four RBIs and a slugging percentage of .583 with a team-high 14 total bases.
Jones lives with his father in Bethesda, Md., and works out at Georgetown Prep.
Wheeler was the coach primarily responsible for recruiting Jones to William and Mary. Farr is now an assistant at the University of Maryland and Wheeler is an assistant at the University of Richmond.
Jones got the last laugh against Wheeler this college season when he had four hits in a game against Richmond in a 7-6 home loss March 11. Now the Stafford product is eager for his senior year under Tribe coach Frank Leoni.
“I am excited about next year. We have a good shot of going back to the tournament,” Jones said.