Derek Jones back where it all began

Dave Jones has never tabulated the miles, but it’s pretty clear that his travels to support his favorite baseball player have kept him moving over the years.

Since his son Derek began playing baseball at Washington State University less than four years ago, the Snohomish resident has been to Pullman and back at least 40 times. He’s traveled to Los Angeles, the Bay Area (four times), to Arizona and Corvallis and Eugene, and even to College Station, Texas. In 2010, when the Cougars qualified for an NCAA regional in Arkansas, Dave Jones flew with his wife, Terri, to Tulsa, Okla., then made the 115-mile drive to Fayetteville.

His most emotional road trip may have come four weeks ago, when Jones made the solo trek to Yakima to catch Derek’s professional debut as a member of the Colorado Rockies’ farm system.

“I’ve never done a whole lot of picture-taking,” Dave Jones said, “but when the lineups got announced before that game, I got goose bumps and took a lot of pictures.”

Throw in a half dozen trips to Safeco Field to see Derek play for Snohomish High School, and the countless summer weekends the family traveled since the baseball star was 13 years old, and there should be some kind of frequent-driver miles involved.

“I’ve been all over,” Dave Jones said.

This week, with the Tri-City Devils in Everett for a five-game series against the AquaSox, Dave Jones will make daily road trips that barely afford him time to turn on the car stereo. A 15-minute jaunt from Snohomish to Everett Memorial Stadium will bring the Jones family together again.

No one is more excited about Derek Jones being in Everett than Derek Jones himself. The laid-back outfielder is pretty pumped up about returning to the area where his baseball career started.

“It’s definitely nice playing 20 minutes from home,” he said.

The 22-year-old Jones, who last season set the WSU record for career home runs, appreciates the time and effort his parents have put into his favorite hobby, saying of Dave and Terri: “They’re probably the most supportive parents any person could ask for.”

Jones’ main goal, of course, is to move up. His next stop probably would be Ashville, N.C., where the Rockies’ next step of Class A baseball plays, and eventually the kid from Snohomish would love to be playing at Coors Field in Denver.

But he knows that’s a long way off, and not just in terms of mileage. His first few weeks of professional baseball have left him in a state of transition adjustment — both to pro baseball and wooden bats. Jones was hitting .171 in 82 at-bats going into Thursday night’s game, but said that his confidence is coming back after some minor swing alterations. A left-handed hitter, Jones went 1-for-4 with a double off the left-field fence in the series opener.

Jones has a history of taking time to adjust to wooden bats, which he used in East Coast-based leagues each of the past three summers.

“In summer leagues, it always takes me (some time),” he said. “Whether it’s in my head or not, I would struggle a little bit, and then it would domino. You can over-think it. Now that I’m a little bit comfortable, I should be a little more successful.”

Another thing Jones is trying to learn is how to spend all his free time. The minor leagues have been all about baseball … and not much else.

“I’m trying to pick up a hobby, get my mind away from baseball,” said Jones, who was selected in the eighth round of the June draft. “I wake up thinking about it. I go to sleep thinking about it. I probably spend seven straight hours thinking about it during the day. So it can be a little bit of a grind.”

The Jones family is hoping that geographical comfort brings out the best in the left-hand-hitting outfielder this week.

But whatever happens the rest of this week, Dave Jones is happy to have his son back in town — even if it’s only for a few days.

“When the deal with the Rockies came through, I was like: ‘This couldn’t be any better,’” said Derek’s father, an anti-University of Washington fan who attended Eastern Washington University but has become just as big a fan of WSU in recent years. “The only bad thing is that he has to wear purple colors. That’s been hard to get used to.”

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