College athlete of the week
Player: Owen Jones
Year, school: Senior, University of Portland
Hometown: Edmonds (Edmonds-Woodway High School)
What he did: Pitched 21/3 scoreless innings over two appearances, earning his team-best 16th save along the way. Jones did not allow an earned run in his final 11 appearances of the regular season and finished his senior year with a team-low 1.24 ERA. His school-record 16 saves ranked second in the WCC.
What’s next: The senior Business Communication major graduated and is hoping to be included in next month’s major-league draft.
You finished the season on quite a streak. Is it OK to talk about it now, or is that some kind of a baseball jinx?
No, go for it.
When was the last time you gave up a run?
Boy. I gave up an unearned run against St. Mary’s (three weeks ago). But the last time I gave up an earned run was probably at Pepperdine (on April 14). That was the toughest weekend of my career.
What happened after that weekend to get you back on track?
I don’t know. I was doing well before that. I really didn’t do anything special. That weekend, I was just leaving my pitches up. I just went back to the basics, worked on some mechanical stuff, and it ended up working out for me.
You couldn’t have asked for a better way to finish, huh?
No. I couldn’t at all. From the team aspect, sure, it would have been nice to make regionals — obviously. But individually, I wouldn’t ask for anything more.
And you had 16 saves this season, which sounds like an awful lot for a college pitcher. The Pilots liked their games close, huh?
Yeah. We had an inordinate amount of close games early on. Our team was based on pitching and defense, and we faced a lot of good pitchers. So we typically didn’t get blown out, and we typically didn’t blow anyone out either.
And you broke the school record for saves. How cool was that?
It was very exciting. I was here when Chris Dennis, our All-American closer, did it last year. He’s from Bothell High School, and he’s a good friend of mine, so it was an honor to get the record from him. As a closer, it’s mostly about saves, so it feels good to have accomplished that.
When did you officially become the team’s closer?
Just this year. I was named the closer before the season. Chris Dennis graduated and got drafted, so they were looking for a closer. And I guess I fit the bill.
Did you have any entrance music?
‘For Whom the Bell Tolls,’ by Metallica. It’s pretty cool. I had never really heard it before, but I was looking for a song that no one else had.
Well, I had a few suggestions. What about ‘Mr. Jones,’ by Counting Crows? Or ‘Portland, Oregon,’ by Loretta Lynn and Jack White?
You know what? ‘Mr. Jones,’ I would have chosen that one, but it’s not a big pump-up song. But I like the song. I’ve always liked it.
Let’s be honest: most closers are a bit off their rocker. Are you as tattooed as Brandon League, as obnoxious as Brian Wilson, or as crazy as Jonathan Papelbon?
You know, depending on who you ask, I’d probably say no. But last summer, I did grow out my beard like Brian Wilson. It was pretty gross. You’re not allowed to grow facial hair during the season, so I had to cut it off. I guess we all have our quirks.
How long did it get?
Well, it was three-and-a-half-months worth of growth. And I picked it out with a comb, so it was all curly. It was pretty big.
What was it like when you shaved it off?
Weird. My skin was all white because it hadn’t seen the sun in however long.
They say closers have to have a short memory. Bet that hurt you come final exams, huh?
(Laughs) It’s funny because I actually graduated last year. So I wasn’t terribly concerned with my final exams. I had a couple hard classes, but I wasn’t nearly as concerned with finals this year.
So what’s next for you?
That’s a great question. No idea. I just finished baseball, and now I’m back in Edmonds, just hanging out. I’ll find a job at some point. No rush. I’m more excited to do some fishing this summer, then do some skiing in the winter — things I haven’t had much time to do because of baseball. I’m looking forward to doing some things I haven’t been able to do since I was 11, 12 years old, when I started playing baseball.
Is your baseball career over, or are there some opportunities out there?
There are some opportunities, but that’s completely out of my hands. The draft is there, obviously, but I don’t want to speculate on whether or not that might happen. I’d obviously be overjoyed if it did happen, but I don’t know. As far as playing semi-pro, or anything other than minor-league baseball, I don’t think I’d do anything like that.
You majored in organizational communication. What exactly is that?
It’s sort of like business communication. It’s like PR (public relations), HR (human resources), stuff like that. I don’t even know. I’ll just say it’s like business communication.
Brian Wilson and Papelbon probably majored in disorganizational communication.
So what do you want to do with your life after baseball? Have you thought about that?
Not really. Any interest beyond baseball isn’t really in my realm right now. I minored in entrepreneurship and economics, which are two things I have more interest in than organizational communication. I just picked that major because I was a freshman and had to pick a major. So I’m not sure yet. Something involving business. I know that’s pretty general, but that’s all I know now.
On another note, your mother, Wendy, was a college gymnast. Did she ever try to get you into that?
I don’t think so. She never mentioned that I should do that. There were a few times, though, because I played second base when I was younger and they say that ballet helps an infielder with his footwork, when they tried to make me into a ballet dancer. But they never succeeded.
Did you actually take some ballet classes?
No. It was just a passing thought, something that was entertained.
If your dad had married a volleyball player, you’d probably be a first-round pick, huh?
No idea. The whole height thing baffles me. If you have a few more inches on you, people see you in a whole different light. Everyone says if you’re not 6 feet tall, you don’t have a chance. You have to be at least 6 feet tall. I’m about 6-1, maybe 6-2. If I was taller, who knows?
Well, it seems to have worked out pretty well for you.
Oh, yeah. It’s been fine.
And at least you’re not crazy, like Wilson and Papelbon.
That’s true — most of the time, anyway.