Saturday, February 19, 2011
#443) BOBBY JONES
Bobby Jones was selected by the New York Mets organization during the first round of the amateur draft on June 3, 1991. He was taken with the pick granted as compensation for losing free agent Darryl Strawberry the previous winter. Jones was a graduate of the Fresno State University baseball program. He made his major-league debut in a Mets uniform on August 14, 1993. Bobby was the starting pitcher during New York's 9-5 win over the Phillies in Philadelphia. He was credited with the win after throwing six innings and surrendering only one earned run. The right-hander was inserted into the rotation after Bret Saberhagen was given arthroscopic surgery on his left knee to end his year.
Bobby won 12 games the next year as the Mets number three starter in the rotation. Ranking second on the club to Saberhagen's 14 victories during that strike-shortened 1994 season.
The Mets rewarded Jones by naming him the Opening Day starting pitcher in 1995. An honor that he enjoyed on multiple occassions during his time in New York. "It's a good feeling," Bobby told the New York Times in 1998. "Maybe I can look back on it and say I started this many opening days."
He became regarded as the staff ace and enjoyed his best season in 1997. The only year that he would represent the Mets in the Major League All-Star Game. Jones was named the National League Pitcher of the Month after winning all five of his starts in May and posting a 1.15 ERA. Bobby finished with 15 victories and a 3.63 ERA on the season.
Injuries severely limited him in 1999, and saw the Mets electing to leave him off the post season roster when New York won the National League Wild Card entry. The next year he would rebound and contribute 11 wins to help the Mets again advance into the post season. The success coming only after he first accepted a demotion to Triple-A Norfolk to correct his poor start. "Going to the minors to pitch was an easy decision for me," Jones said in October 2000. "After not being part of the playoffs last year, I wanted to have a great year and experience the playoffs. If I was pitching like I was earlier in the year, I would not be here."
During the 2000 National League Division Series he threw one of the greatest games in franchise history. Bobby faced the San Francisco Giants in Game Four at Shea Stadium. The result was a dazzling one-hit masterpiece that saw the right-hander retire the side in order eight of the nine innings. With the 3-2 victory the Mets eliminated the Giants and earned Jones a deserved ovation from the 56,285 New Yorkers in attendance. "It's an awesome feeling," Bobby said of the roar, "knowing that the fans are behind you and pulling for you."
The victory would prove to be his final one in a Mets uniform as the New York Yankees would defeat him in his World Series start. Jones ended his long career with the Mets when he signed a free agent contract with the San Diego Padres on February 15, 2001. "The market was a late-developing market," his agent, Jeff Moorad said after the signing. "Had it not been for Bobby's desire to stay in New York, we might have pushed harder on the front end. But there was some reluctance on his part to do anything until the Mets' rotation was set."
After his retirement from baseball he has enjoyed developing his grilling skills. With a business partner he has created his own barbeque sauce named, Sloppy Jons. "Me and Turk Wendell used to eat fried turkey in the bullpen a lot during batting practice," Jones remembered with a laugh. "We didn't really have a kitchen at Shea, but when I went on to San Diego I cooked a lot." Jones honed his technique later grilling for charity events and in competitive cook-offs.
Bobby is also an avid wine collector and has started making different wines with friends. "We purchased the grapes from wineries all over Napa Valley and did the whole process ourselves in a little facility we have here." Jones shared in 2010. "When they're done and bottled we distribute them amongst our group."
The pitcher remained close to the game by becoming the pitching coach for Fresno State University in 2006, and continuing to offer pitching lessons afterward. Some of his students were part of the College World Series Champions of 2008.
Bobby Jones signed his card from the set for my friend, Brian Watson before the Fresno State Alumni Game at Beiden Field on February 12, 2011.