'Whirlwind of emotion' as Greg Jones homers for first MLB hit

June 18th, 2024

DENVER -- The intriguing features on the scouting report for Rockies debutant are his game-changing speed, potential to play several positions, and more power than one would expect from a player with the aforementioned attributes. It’s a package for a spark-plug player.

Jones certainly added a little combustion to what had been a mundane spectacle for the Rockies for nearly nine innings at Coors Field on Monday night. Jones’ first Major League hit was a two-out, pinch-hit homer into the right-field stands.

The Rockies scored four in the ninth, with Hunter Goodman adding a two-run shot that was his third homer in three games. The Dodgers, though, excited their sizable contingent of supporters in the park for most of the night with a 9-5 win, sending the Rockies to their sixth loss in the last eight games.

Jones, 26, has played sparingly since being called up to the Majors on June 6. His mother, father and girlfriend joined him in St. Louis for his debut and stayed with him through that series, one in Minnesota and the current homestand, and supported him through five plate appearances that netted four strikeouts and one walk.

When he clubbed Dodgers reliever J.P. Feyereisen’s 1-1 changeup, he became the first Rockies player to homer on his first hit since Brian Serven on May 21, 2022, against the Mets.

“Honestly, I was just making sure I touched all the bases,” said Jones, still wearing the smile of a lifetime -- which showed up as soon as he reached the dugout. “Definitely a whirlwind of emotions right there.”

Of course, the Rockies tracked down the baseball, which was displayed in Jones’ locker. Something other than Jones’ joy touched him when he relived the moment through the highlight.

“I went back and watched the video,” he said. “And from the side angle, I just saw the whole dugout as soon as I hit it just go up. Seeing the guys behind me like that was second to none.”

Obtained near the end of Spring Training from the Rays for Minor League lefty pitcher Joe Rock, Jones’ assignment at Albuquerque was to top off his switch-hitting. He slashed .240/.360/.387 with two home runs and 15 steals in 16 attempts in Triple-A.

Jones played mostly center field before being out from late April to early June with a left thumb injury. He was back in the Albuquerque lineup for three games when injuries to Sean Bouchard and Kris Bryant opened a Major League spot for him.

“Wasn’t that great for Greg?” Rockies manager Bud Black said. “We haven’t played him a lot. He’s coming off the thumb [injury] and we’re looking at some other guys.”

Don’t chastise the Rockies for accepting the joy Jones’ homer brought to their Mudville. The night had been dour.

This whole experience came out of nowhere for Jones.

Albuquerque manager Pedro Lopez had just met with Jones and told him the Rockies wanted him to practice the infield positions. Jones was a shortstop at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington before the Rays drafted him in the first round in 2019. The Rays transitioned him to the outfield last year.

Black and the coaching staff have watched closely as Jones worked all over the outfield and infield. They’ve seen athletic ability but a need for polish. After all, Jones has had just 100 Minor League plate appearances this season, including 11 during a rehab assignment in the Arizona Complex League.

“He’s more than likely going back to the Minors to get some regular playing time,” Black said. “There are some things to tighten up on the offensive side. We’ve got to cut the strikeout rate, put the ball in play and work around the diamond. We have him playing short and center. We might try to expand that.”

Jones has been rarely seen during games, but he has made sure to practice and take in information, in hopes of being used more in the Majors.

“That’s literally what I come to the field to do, to make sure I’m ready for whenever they need me,” Jones said. “I try to get some work in the infield, outfield, running bases, taking swings.”

He was prepared on Monday.

“I faced Feyereisen in Triple-A already this season,” Jones said. “I think he got me the first time.

“I can say I got him tonight.”