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Jones has left lasting impact on O's, Baltimore

Future is uncertain for longtime center fielder, but legacy is clear to teammates and family
MLB.com @Britt_Ghiroli

BALTIMORE -- In the winter of 2010, years before he was signed to a contract extension, Adam Jones reached out to fans on Twitter. Not yet making the kind of money that later enabled him to renovate three Boys & Girls clubs and build a computer center, the center fielder simply wanted some addresses.

Jones, vacationing with a teammate in Europe at the time, then picked a half-dozen fans to whom he sent postcards from some of his favorite stops. It was, he figured, an easy way to brighten someone's day. Eight years later, you'd be hard-pressed to find an Orioles fan who doesn't appreciate Jones for what's he brought to the field and the remarkable impact he's had off it.

BALTIMORE -- In the winter of 2010, years before he was signed to a contract extension, Adam Jones reached out to fans on Twitter. Not yet making the kind of money that later enabled him to renovate three Boys & Girls clubs and build a computer center, the center fielder simply wanted some addresses.

Jones, vacationing with a teammate in Europe at the time, then picked a half-dozen fans to whom he sent postcards from some of his favorite stops. It was, he figured, an easy way to brighten someone's day. Eight years later, you'd be hard-pressed to find an Orioles fan who doesn't appreciate Jones for what's he brought to the field and the remarkable impact he's had off it.

"He knows what he wants in life. He wants to take care of everybody," said former O's teammate Quintin Berry, who grew up with Jones in San Diego and remains his best friend. "He always wanted to take care of people, always wanted to help out. He's like that with his teammates. He's like that with his community. Some guys, success changes them. He's never changed."

Jones, named the Orioles Heart & Hustle recipient earlier this season, will be honored in Sunday's season finale as the club's Most Valuable Oriole. Despite a down offensive year for the 33-year-old on a team ravaged by trades and in the thick of a rebuild, one can't overlook what Jones has accomplished in his tenure.

Tweet from @Orioles: Congratulations to Adam Jones, voted winner of the 2018 Louis M. Hatter Most Valuable Oriole Award by members of the local media! #Birdland @SimplyAJ10 pic.twitter.com/erUZBB4l6B

He ranks fifth in Orioles history in home runs, behind a formidable quartet: Cal Ripken Jr., Eddie Murray, Boog Powell and Brooks Robinson. Last year, Jones posted a club-record seventh consecutive 25-plus-home run season.

Jones is one of just five American League center fielders to hit the 250-homer mark while at the position and ranks tied for second in Orioles history with 93 outfield assists. This spring, he made his 11th straight Opening Day start in center field, becoming the first player to do that in one uniform since one of Jones' idols, Ken Griffey Jr. (1989-99 with Seattle).

"He reminded me of Eddie and Cal," said former head athletic trainer Richie Bancells, who retired last year after spending more than four decades in the organization, including during Ripken's infamous Iron Man streak. "I know those are big names, but I think the numbers over the years have proven that.

Video: NYM@BAL: Jones homers, gives gloves to young fan

"He's always reminded me of an old-school guy. I said this to him at one point. I hope when his boys are old enough I get a chance to sit with them and tell them what kind of player their dad was. I mean that, because of how highly I think of him as a player and a person."

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Jones is a free agent at season's end, and his waning days with Baltimore have hardly been a fond farewell tour. After refusing a trade to the Phillies at the Deadline, Jones exercised his 10-and-5 rights to finish out his contract. At first, he cited not wanting to uproot his family. Later, he admitted playing time was also a factor.

Depending on who you talk to -- both camps have separate opinions -- Jones also nixed the possibility of going to the Yankees before they landed Andrew McCutchen. Baltimore, which already had dealt Manny Machado, Zach Britton, Brad Brach, Kevin Gausman, Jonathan Schoop and Darren O'Day, was hoping to shed the remainder of Jones' salary and perhaps get a prospect in return.

Once it became clear he wouldn't relent, the organization called up prospect Cedric Mullins and moved Jones -- whose defensive metrics have dwindled in recent seasons -- to right field. In September, they started sitting him sporadically to look at some of their younger players, including 28-year-old John Andreoli and Joey Rickard, a 27-year-old who has been up and down for three years. In mid-September, they added outfield prospect and former first-round pick DJ Stewart to that mix.

Video: BOS@BAL: Jones helps Mullins lead O's out of dugout

Initially, Orioles manager Buck Showalter said he was being "careful" physically with Jones, though admitted later there were other things at play. 

"I'm not going to tell you that's the complete reason," Showalter said before the O's series opener in St. Petersburg in early September. "It's really a lesser one. We've got some people we want to see play."

Jones, who will finish the year with a substantial drop in his RBI and home run totals, didn't play the entire three-game series at Tropicana Field. 

"He feels as good physically as he has in a long time. I think that bodes well for him. He and our training staff have done a good job of picking the days off for him," Showalter said of sitting the veteran. "That doesn't have anything to do with today's subject matter.

"I talked to Adam. He knows what's going on. It's been a while since he's missed some games being healthy, so it's a little different territory for him, but I think he understands what's going on."

Watching Jones' playing time shrink has rubbed some former teammates the wrong way.

"The way they are treating a guy who has not only been a leader, but has had an impact the way he has, is disrespectful," said Machado, who was shipped to the Dodgers in July. "I've seen first-hand the past seven years the way he's given so much, day in, day out, the grind that he's had. He's been a very impactful person in the city and in the clubhouse. Seeing what they are doing is kind of sad.

"Sometimes you have to give respect to guys who leave it all out on and off the field and give you their all. Sometimes you have to give guys the respect they deserve, and that guy is named Adam Jones."

Video: HOU@BAL: Jones lays out to make a great diving grab

"The city has always appreciated him," Berry said. "There are things that have happened this year that prove that people forget quickly. People start taking you for granted when things change. I know Baltimore is doing a rebuild now, but it's almost like he's getting lost in the shuffle."

Jones has said he has no control over when he plays and has maintained a positive attitude in interviews. Still, it's hard to envision the 33-year-old privately not feeling hurt by an organization he chose to sign with to the tune of $85.5 million in 2012.

"It's an unfortunate situation over there with what he's going through, especially with what he's done for that team and that organization," said right fielder Nick Markakis, who had his own disappointing farewell, signing with the Braves as a free agent in '15 after the Orioles had concerns about whether he'd physically hold up.

"You hate to see what is happening, but Adam is the type of person who can deal with it. He's mentally strong, and he's a pro in every way with the way he handles himself. In the long run, I think he'll be fine, and it will work out for him."

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Since he was acquired prior to the 2008 season in a trade with the Mariners for Erik Bedard, Jones has been an everyday presence. He and Markakis became synonymous with hard work. Call it friendly competition or a return to the old Oriole Way. Neither guy wanted to ever take a day off and incur the wrath of the other about being soft.

Video: Orioles win three Gold Gloves in 2014

By the time Jones signed the six-year deal during the 2012 season -- the biggest contract in club history at the time -- it was as much about his character as his numbers. He played 162 games that season, followed by 160 and 159. It was no surprise that Markakis, who suffered a season-ending injury on a CC Sabathia pitch in '12, played in 160 and 155 the next two seasons.

"He's a player that plays injured and plays every day," Markakis said. "He plays just as hard as anybody in the big leagues. His track record shows that. That's why he is the person he is today."

The pair, along with shortstop J.J. Hardy, became the core of a hard-nosed '14 team that cruised to an American League East title despite missing All-Stars Machado, Matt Wieters and Chris Davis.

Video: TOR@BAL: Jones shares pies with fans after clinching

"I believe in '14 we wouldn't have had the year we had without him in the clubhouse and on the field," said Cardinals reliever Bud Norris, who had a career-high 15 wins as a starter for the O's that season. "He got more out of me in Baltimore than I expected to get out of myself. It came from him pushing me and never settling. That's the kind of guy we needed."

Norris, who will see Jones at his bachelor party and wedding this offseason, calls the outfielder the best teammate he's ever had. And the more people you talk to, the more you realize he's not alone in that sentiment.

"I wouldn't have rather spent those eight years in the same uniform with anybody else," said Markakis, who remains close to Jones. "It says a lot about him, the kind of teammate and person he is."

"He was a person that you could look up to," Machado added. "Seeing what he did he made me want to be a better player."

Seeing how Jones went about his business had a similar effect.

"He's so consistent," said Yankees reliever and former Oriole closer Zach Britton. "Always had your back. You didn't hear him bad-mouthing another teammate after an error or mistake."

Effort is the only hot button for Jones, who was told countless times by Bancells to ease up sometimes or he'd hurt himself. Did the outfielder really need to run full bore and jump up, spikes into the wall, on a ball that sailed 20 rows deep into the seats?

"Adam's always on. OK? He doesn't have an off button," said manager Buck Showalter, who is still in awe of the pitch-perfect impression Jones did of the O's skipper at his wedding.

"Not many people can make me laugh during a game. He can make me laugh during a game."

Tweet from @Cut4: "The Buck Showalter" - Adam Jones, 2015, Baseball Player: pic.twitter.com/ls24xq1nBz

Jones, who is never shy about giving a teammate a pie to the face -- a tradition that has since ended -- loves to talk trash and has been the class clown since high school, when he and Berry would get in trouble for hiding in the snack bar. He brings in donuts for the clubhouse, is a standout in the team talent show and once filled out an entire Orioles lineup card with members of the media.

"He's the face of that franchise right now. I'm not sure who takes over that role," Britton said. "You always have to have someone the fan base can relate to. Adam is definitely that guy."

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Never afraid to speak his mind, Jones has often found himself embroiled in the national spotlight. He took to Twitter in 2013 when a banana was thrown at him in San Francisco and when he was mistaken and briefly detained by Toronto customs in a case of mistaken identity. He also spoke out last year after he was the target of racial epithets at Fenway Park.

Video: Jones on treatment from Red Sox fans at Fenway

And when Baltimore was dealing with civil unrest in '15 over Freddie Gray's death, Jones -- knowing the weight of his words -- didn't hesitate to get behind the microphone, urging the city to heal.

"People appreciate me showing up to work every day, Jones said, "And in a city like Baltimore, a place where fans don't like excuses, fans just want to you to show up to work and [shut up] and play the game hard. That's what I've done. Not [shut up], but play the game hard."

Jones, who met his wife, Audie, in Baltimore, is planning his sixth annual tailgate that benefits the Boys & Girls club (he's an alumni of the San Diego branch). Earlier this year, he gave $8,500 to the Mamie Johnson Little League team. And on Saturday, he and Audie, in partnership with the Orioles Charitable Foundation, presented a check for $150,000 to several local non-profits.

Instagram from @simplyaj10: Just a few of local Baltimore places that the Jones' have touched. There are more so sorry for not putting them on the shirt but you know you're on my mind and heart. #playersweekend

Never ones to just write a check, the Jones family visited every charity, meeting the kids and finding out exactly where the money would go.

"It's the right thing to [do]: show kids, especially the areas you come from ... to show those kinds of kids that, look, anybody can make it," Jones said. "That's all I'm trying to do, is just show these kids that there's a way. You work your tail off. There's an outlet and there are people who support you."

If Jones' time between the lines at Camden Yards is truly through after Sunday, don't expect a lot of outward emotion from No. 10. He's heard the ovations, and he's appreciated them. And then, like he's done thousands of times before, he puts his head down, digs in and gets to work.

"I know it means a lot to him. How could it not?" Audie Jones said of the home crowd's support this final weekend. "It is kind of sad for everyone. Who knows what will happen next year, but it's weird, coming to a close, being here for 11 years. ... It's bittersweet, I guess."

Brittany Ghiroli has covered the Orioles for MLB.com since 2010. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter @britt_ghiroli, and listen to her podcast.

Baltimore Orioles, Adam Jones