When Long Island University junior James Jones took the mound this spring, his every pitch was closely scrutinized by dozens of Major League scouts.
They weren’t just there to see him throw a baseball 90 mph; there were some teams interested in his ability to hit a baseball 400 feet, steal bases and track down line drives.
The Seattle Mariners were one of them.
Last Wednesday afternoon, on the second day of the MLB amateur draft, Jones was chosen by Seattle with the second pick of the fourth round (113 overall), the highest in LIU history, as a left fielder.
“It could’ve went 50⁄50, I’m not surprised at all,” said Jones, a Brooklyn product who starred at Telecommunications. “There were some teams interested in me more as a position player. I’m very excited this happened. I got the opportunity to chase my dreams.”
The 6−foot−3, 220−pound Jones saw the pick live on MLB.com with his mother, Brena, from the Brooklyn home of his former Youth Service summer league coach, Mel Zitter.
“When his name was called, he and his mother were the two happiest people in the world,” Zitter said.
The Mariners called and congratulated him. Jones, who has enlisted the services of Jim Murray of Hendricks Sports Management, has yet to sign a contract. Zitter said Jones flew to Seattle for a pre−draft workout last weekend, impressing them with his speed and power.
Jones hit .364 this spring with 32 RBIs and a team−best nine home runs. He also stole 20 bases, third in the Northeast Conference. Jones is also an athletic freak. He can squat over 400 pounds and produced the highest score among all LIU athletes in the Nike Sparq Test, an assessment of athleticism.
“I’ve been saying all along I thought he was a position player,” LU coach Don Maines said. “When you see a kid for three years, you know what he can do. He’s getting everything he deserves. I’m thrilled for the kid. … (Seattle) liked his athleticism, they liked the way he swings the bat.”
There were whispers Jones would be selected in the top three rounds, possibly as high as the second. Yet, he remained undrafted after the first night. He was disappointed, but remained confident.
“I’m just happy that I have this opportunity,” he said. “My heart just dropped. I’m happy it’s finally over. No more waiting.”