Citizen Staff Writer
Nine seasons since his retirement as one of Major League Baseball’s all-time top closers, Doug Jones is still recording saves as a high school coach.
Jones has guided the Pusch Ridge Christian Academy baseball team to a 19-3 record and a spot in the Class 2A state baseball tournament.
Pusch Ridge plays Tombstone at noon Friday at Peoria Sports Complex.
The players say they are fortunate to have Jones, a five-time All-Star who ranks 20th on the all-time saves list with 303. With his trademark mustache, the 6-foot-2 right-hander baffled major-league hitters with his effective change-ups and other slow stuff and an intimidating stare for 16 years with seven teams.
“The chances of you getting a coach that played 18 years in the professional ball is slim,” Pusch Ridge senior third baseman Joey DeGroff said. “It’s nice to have that experience. We’ve learned a lot. It has been great.
“His coaching style is laid back, but he can be intense as well, which I think works for this program.”
Jones, 51, is no stranger to Pusch Ridge. His son, Dawson, is a senior pitcher-third baseman for the Lions, with a 6-0 record, 1.02 ERA and a .323 batting average.
Two other sons, Dustin and Dillon Jones, also played for Pusch Ridge. The two are on the baseball team at Masters College in Los Angeles.
Jones had been helping coach Pusch Ridge players since his oldest son played for the Lions in 2000, but he took over officially as head coach this season.
He worked for the Arizona Diamondbacks as a pitching consultant before returning to Pusch Ridge. He was asked to take over the team until the school hires a replacement next season.
Jones takes little credit for the season Pusch Ridge is having.
“We lost two seniors from last year who were in the lineup,” Jones said. “We had four starters from junior class and three from sophomore class. They are going to have a good team next year.”
Senior first baseman-outfielder Andy Knox, who is hitting .472 for the Lions, says Jones’ experience has been a key factor.
“He has so much knowledge from playing in the major leagues for so many years,” Knox said.
Jones was drafted by the Brewers in 1978, after playing for Central Arizona College, making his major league debut in 1982. His big break came with the Cleveland organization, when he was converted from a starter to a reliever in 1985.
“They told me go to the bullpen or go home,” Jones told the Tucson Citizen back in 2002.
In 1988, Jones led the Indians with 37 saves and was one of the top relievers in the game.
Jones stayed with Cleveland through 1991 before moving around on an almost yearly basis. He played for Houston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, the Chicago Cubs, had second stints with Milwaukee and Cleveland, and finally Oakland in 1999-2000.
He was the oldest player in the majors in 2000 at 43. He held the Indians’ all-time record for saves with 129 until Bob Wickman broke it on May 7, 2006.
“Obviously, our record (reflects Jones’ experience),” said DeGroff, who is hitting .300, “and hopefully we can carry it on in the playoffs.”
Pusch Ridge fell short of the state tourney last season.
“We’ve heard comments from teams who say we’re going to choke again,” DeGroff said. “We’re out to prove them wrong.”
TC VARSITY, PAGE 6C
• The Ironwood Ridge boys volleyball team beat Marana on Wednesday, setting up a rematch with Catalina Foothills for the Sonoran Region championship.
• Chris Klassen “bleeds Palo Verde” and has been named the school’s new boys basketball coach.
JONES IN MAJORS
Seasons 16 (1982, 1986-2000)
W-L 11-8 (1992, Astros)
ERA 1.85 (1992, Astros)
Saves 43 (1990, Indians)
ALL-TIME MLB SAVES LEADERS
1. Trevor Hoffman 558
2. Mariano Rivera 487
3. Lee Smith 478
4. John Franco 424
5. Dennis Eckersley 390
6. Billy Wagner 385
7. Jeff Reardon 367
8. Troy Percival 355
9. Randy Myers 347
10. Rollie Fingers 341
11. John Wetteland 330
12. Roberto Hernandez 326
13. Jose Mesa 321
14. Todd Jones 319
15. Rick Aguilera 318
16. Robb Nen 314
17. Tom Henke 311
18. Goose Gossage 310
19. Jeff Montgomery 304
20. Doug Jones 303