EVERETT —Baseball has a tendency of taking players all over the country.
The minor-leaguers in Everett are about to find that out. Utah Jones is already aware of that reality.
Jones, who thumped a leadoff homer for the AquaSox in the first to set the tone for the AquaSox’s 6-2 win over Boise on Monday at Funko Field at Everett Memorial Stadium, is the son of baseball coach Billy Jones, who moved all around the country while climbing up the coaching ladder.
The AquaSox shortstop was born in Kent, Washington when his father was a coach at Green River Community College from 1995-1998. Then, Jones went to Corvallis, Oregon for an assistant coaching position with the Beavers in 1999-2000, to Tempe, Arizona for a assistant gig with the Sun Devils in 2001.
Next came a stint in Raleigh, North Carolina when the elder Jones took an assistant job with North Carolina State before taking an identical job at Oklahoma State in Stillwater.
When his father took the head coaching job at Appalachian State in 2013, Jones moved to Boone, North Carolina, where he finished high school and landed a spot on the baseball team at the prestigious University of North Carolina.
That’s six stops and five states in 18 years.
But unbeknownst to Utah, he’d add a sixth state to that list before his college career ended.
Jones played sparingly in his two seasons with the Tar Heels, assembling 15 at-bats over 38 games played, and transferred to NCAA Division-II North Greenville in Tigerville, South Carolina, — with AquaSox reliever Kipp Rollings — where playing time was more plentiful.
“You’re not going to get drafted sitting on the bench and playing professionally has always been my ultimate goal since I was a kid,” Jones said. “I wanted to go somewhere where they wanted me and I could play everyday. My advice to kids is to go where you’re needed, go where you’re wanted. Don’t go to the sexy school so you can tell your friends. Go where you can played.
“I absolutely loved it there. … It was probably the best decision I’ve ever made.”
That dream was realized in the 29th round of the draft when the Mariners nabbed him. Jones said he was watching the draft tracker with his dad in his home in Indianapolis, where the elder Jones is a hitting instructor at Pro X athlete training facility. They both erupted with glee when his name popped up.
“I was pacing back and forth, but when I finally saw my name, it was the best feeling in the world,” Utah Jones said.
Jones started his professional career with single-A West Virginia — his eighth state — before being reassigned to Everett on Monday. He said that was his plan all along, with the organization waiting until it signed ninth-round pick Mike Salvatore out of Florida State, which was reported as final by MLB Pipeline’s Jonathan Mayo on Monday.
He’s the second of his siblings to be drafted into the MLB. His older brother, Ryder, was taken in the second round of the 2013 draft by San Francisco and made his big league debut with the Giants in 2017.
Jones is the second of his siblings to be drafted into the MLB. His older brother, Ryder, was taken in the second round of the 2013 draft by San Francisco and made his big league debut with the Giants in 2017.
The 29th-round pick didn’t waste time impressing in his first game with his next team, running into his first professional home run in his first at-bat with the AquaSox in the first inning.
“I was thinking, first game it would be pretty cool to hit a home run,” Jones said. “I was just grateful for the opportunity and I’m going to compete every at-bat.”
What’s more, is Jones’ grandparents, John and Judy, were in the stands to watch his first Northwest League game. They still live in the Kent area.
Damon Casetta-Stubbs picked up his first Northwest League win, allowing one run over five innings. He settled down after serving up a mammoth home run to Rockies’ first-round pick and Gig Harbor native Michael Toglia in the first inning, which sailed over the protective netting in right field. Casetta-Stubbs allowed just two more hits and struck out five with two walks.
“He did a really good job,” AquaSox manager Jose Moreno said. “He did a really good job of giving us a chance to win and keeping the game tied. He got in some really deep counts and while he wasn’t able to go more, but it was really good from him after a tough last outing.”
Everett hung three runs in the second to take a 4-1 lead on Cesar Izturis Jr.’s RBI single, Miguel Perez’s RBI triple and DeAires Moses’ sacrifice fly.
Perez went 2-for-3 with two RBI and a run scored, Patrick Frick recorded two hits and an RBI and Jones crossed home twice to lead the AquaSox offense.
Nate Fisher was solid in three innings of relief for Everett, allowing one run on four hits with five strikeouts and no walks.
Boise starter Zak Baayoun was handed the loss after allowing five runs on five hits over four innings.