James Jones has been one of the surprise stories for the Mariners in the 2014 season. A fourth-round draft pick that many figured would be signed as a pitcher (he threw 95 MPH in college). But the Mariners had other plans for him and so far, it’s paying off.
Jones was first called up to the club in April. In his first Major League at-bat, he beat out an infield single to the second baseman. Mariners fans held their breath, blinded and excited by his speed.
But he was sent back down to Triple-A Tacoma after that game.
It wouldn’t take long for him to come back. Abraham Almonte had been the leadoff hitter at the beginning of the season and struggled mightily. Enter Jones. He would get at least one hit in each of his first 15 starts, breaking Edgar Martinez‘s franchise record of 10 games.
Jun 15, 2014; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Mariners center fielder James Jones (99) stands during the playing of “God Bless America” during the seventh inning stretch against the Texas Rangers at Safeco Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
Now, at the end of June, Jones is batting in the two-spot behind Endy Chavez and is hitting .280 with 6 doubles, 28 runs scored and 14 stolen bases in 15 tries. The Mariners only had 42 steals in all of 2013, Michael Saunders led the team with 13.
But not only is he contributing with offense, but he plays stellar defense in center, having only committed one error in over 100 chances. His work-ethic is promising, his smile is infectious and his presence has helped sparked this lineup.
And he is studying the game as well, continually trying to get better. This tweet comes from Todd Dybas of the Tacoma News Tribune.
Those are tremendous splits. It goes back to what I was saying about his work-ethic. He is not okay with just simply doing enough, he wants to be better.
So what to call this phenom – who by the way, should be in on the discussion for AL Rookie of The Year, even though Masahiro Tanaka seems a lock at this point – that has mesmerized the fan base? It should be something that encompasses his passion, determination and spirit……or it could be a play on his name.
It was back in mid-May when I was on Twitter during a Mariners game, conversing with various fans when this tweet came across my timeline:
For those of you who need help with the explanation, the voice of Darth Vader in the Star Wars movies is that of actor James Earl Jones. To call James Jones “Vader” seemed amusing and appropriate. Fast-forward to June 27th, when this happened:
So, Jones has been told about the nickname originally given to him by @Monikeeka and adopted by us….and he likes it.
So thank you Monica for the ingenious nickname for one of the most exciting players of the 2014 season. Now if we could just get him in one of those famous Mariners commercials wearing the Darth Vader mask.