“It feels good, opening day, big crowd,” Jones said. “The crowd gets your butterflies pumping. It was awesome. Everything you could think of. I couldn’t have dreamed it any better.”
Jones waited more than 10 years to start the season with a big league team. He was a 28-year old journeyman who burst on to the scene last season and hit 21 home runs in 84 games after more than 1,000 games in the minor leagues.
“It’s unbelievable,” Jones said of the opening day heroics. “That’s the only word I can use, it’s surreal with that crowd roaring behind you and just getting that first at bat and being able to get the first one out of the way and hit a ball like that. It just felt great, it’s hard to explain – you don’t really feel your feet when you’re running around the bases and I hear that crowd roaring – it’s a great feeling.”
The baseball pundits wondered if he was just a flash in the pan. It is a question that Jones has dealt with last season and all through spring training.
“Deep down, I knew I could play the game,” Jones said of his 10 ½ seasons in the Atlanta Braves and the Minnesota Twins systems. He had a brief stint with the Twins in 2007 batting .208 with two home runs.
Jones’ production is a much needed component on the power starved Pirates. He is still viewed with skepticism, but he is confident that he has finally arrived.
“I think people are going to say what they want to say,” Jones explained. “You read things here and there and I think as a team people already have doubts about us. Other than that I believe in myself and I knew I could do it. It was just a matter of me doing it and I think that applies to our team also. As a team we believe we can win and we have good players and that’s all it’s going to take is believing in ourselves and playing as a team and we’ll turn this around.
“Like I said you read those things and you don’t really think too much of them. I knew I could play this game and I’ve played it for a long time and I needed that time to improve. I think every year I’ve improved and it was the mental side that I improved on. I figured that out and I got comfortable with my thinking process and staying consistent every day and being able to play every day, it’s a grind. For me I just think I needed to get by that mental block and to keep that consistency going to get the average and the numbers up.