Jones pitches his experience
The five-time major league all-star helps coach baseball at Pusch Ridge
By MICHAEL SCHMELZLE
Former major league pitcher Doug Jones traded pitching in Wrigley Field and Fenway Park for road trips to Bisbee and Tombstone.
And it suits him just fine.
Jones, a Tucson resident since 1988, is co-coach of the Pusch Ridge Christian Academy’s baseball team. It is his second season with the squad following his retirement from the game.
Jones, whose last season was in 2000 with the Oakland Athletics, retired to spend more time with his family.
“I’m just raising the boys and trying to be a good husband,” he said.
Jones, 44, and his wife, Debbie, live on the Northwest Side with their children – Dustin, 17; Dylan, 12; and Dawson, 10.
All three sons are hoping to follow in their dad’s footsteps. Dustin, a junior, is an infielder and pitcher for Pusch Ridge, while Dylan and Dawson play in Thornydale Little League.
Jones is not the official head coach at the academy because he is not a classroom teacher. He shares coaching duties with history teacher Jason Clapero.
“He’s forgotten more about the game than I’ve ever known,” Clapero said.
Jones would have retired following the 1999 season with Oakland, but the team allowed Dustin to travel with him.
“I liked it when he played, but it’s cool that he can come to all the games now,” Dustin said.
Jones wanted to remain part of the game after retirement. He doesn’t follow the big leagues closely, but he has always enjoyed the sport.
“I love the game of baseball. I love seeing kids improve; it’s always fun to see that,” he said.
Jones was drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers in 1978 after playing for Central Arizona College.
He reached the majors for the first time in a brief stint with the Brewers in 1982. His big break came with the Cleveland Indians’ organization when he was converted from starter to relief pitcher in 1985.
“They told me go to the bullpen or go home,” the 6-foot-2 Jones said.
By 1988, he was one of the top relievers in the game, having totaled 37 games for the Indians that season.
Jones stayed with Cleveland through 1991 before moving around on an almost yearly basis. Fortunately, his family was patient with the moves.
Debbie and the kids would live in Tucson with Jones during the off-season and live with Doug in whatever city he was pitching in during the season.
“The pay was good, so I tolerated it,” he said. “The kids tolerate everything. My wife was the one that had to pick up and move and put up with everything.”
He later played for Houston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, the Chicago Cubs, second stints with Milwaukee and Cleveland, and finally Oakland.
By the time his career ended, he had been a five-time All-Star. He finished with 303 saves – still 11th-best of all time.
It was a big adjustment for him to go from playing with the world’s best ballplayers to coaching a high school team. But Jones has never been one to have a big ego.
“He doesn’t flaunt it,” Clapero said of Jones’ big-league days. “He’s learning a lot, too (about coaching), and the kids realize that.”
One of Jones’ tasks has been to find out how deep he should go when coaching.
“We have a lot of kids who haven’t played, so we can’t go too far beyond the fundamentals of the game,” Jones said.
It would have been more difficult, he said, if the kids had been in awe of him because of his career. Many know him, however, because he often attended games Dustin played in.
The Lions are 11-8 this year and in a fight for a state playoff berth. Jones is happy with the club but still wants more.
“A coach should never be satisfied,” he said. “We’d like to have 25 guys out for the team, but at the 2A level that is tough.”
Jones doesn’t know how long he will be at Pusch Ridge. He would like to be a pitching instructor in the future and has already had a few offers.
“I’m not a big planner,” Jones said. “I want to wait until the kids are out of college.”
Jones’ major league connections have come in handy. This spring, Diamondbacks’ infielder Jay Bell visited the team for a day.
“That was an awesome opportunity for the kids. (Bell and Jones) are both so down to earth. They put family and their relationship with God first and realize there are more important things than baseball,” Clapero said.
With his playing days behind him, Jones has adapted nicely to his new job.
“It’s a lot of fun,” he said.
Jones in the majors
W-L: 11-8 (1992, Astros)
ERA: 1.85 (1992, Astros)
Saves: 37 (1988, Indians)
PHOTO CREDIT: Photos by NORMA JEAN GARGASZ/Tucson Citizen
CUTLINE: Doug Jones
CUTLINE: Doug Jones (left) spent 16 years in the majors before becoming a coach at Pusch Ridge Christian Academy.
CUTLINE: Jones has been coaching at Pusch Ridge for two seasons.