Halo Hangout recently had the pleasure of attending an Inland Empire 66ers game, Class A Advanced affiliate of the LA Angels. This game featured a plethora of top talent guaranteed to impact the Major Leagues in due time. One of those future stars, the Angels 3rd ranked prospect, is second baseman Jahmai Jones.
It was the perfect day for baseball; an afternoon game in the crisp, sunny San Manuel Stadium, two teams filled with high talent, high energy players and some good ballpark fun. Before the game even started you could feel the life brimming throughout the stadium, including the pre-game festivities of 66ers mascot “Bernie” dancing his way up and down the infield, ultimately engaging a lucky group of fans seated at the with his frverous jesting.
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Immediately after was the announcement of the games “Beer Batter”, a moniker attached to the San Jose Giants first baseman Frandy De La Rosa. Should he strike out before the 7th inning, following the strikeout all draft beers in the stadium would be $2.50.
It was going to be a good game for 66ers fans indeed.
At the end of the day the 66ers lost to the score of 6-1, yet it was still a fantastic game from both the home team and visitors. Connor Riley danced in and out of danger before the bullpen struggled to maintain an stalemate in the middle innings.
It may seem like the 66ers didn’t put up too much of an offense, but that only goes to show how efficient the San Jose Giants pitching staff performed that day. The 66ers colected 5 hits in total and 1 RBI off of a late inning double by Jordan Zimmerman (DH). While Zimmerman had a solid line with 2 hits in 4 AB’s to 2 K’s, 66ers 2nd baseman Jahmai Jones had the other top offensive stat line of the game.
In 3 AB’s, Jones pulled together a hit and two walks next to a strikeout. Jahmai Jones displayed a strong control of the strike zone aside from a few mistakes in terms of pitch selection. The count was seemingly always in his favor, even when it wasn’t.
Jahmai Jones, at the age of 20, has maturity beyond his years. In 2017 Jahmai Jones led the CA League with a 25-game hit streak. in 518 AB’s, Jones rallied a fantastic .282/.348/.446 stat line with 14 HR’s and 47 RBI’s. Even more impressive is the 7 triples he collected during that season.
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H.H (Halo Hangout): Are you starting to feel comfortable at the plate?
Jahmai Jones: I am, yeah. We’re starting to work on some good stuff during early work and in the cages before the game. So as long as I continue to stick to my work and stick to my routine I think things are gonna start swinging around.
H.H: You’re known for your consistency with getting on base. How do you stay in that zone an entire season?
Jahmai Jones: Just trying to stay locked in. It’s hard, you know, there’s 140 games and you wanna do your best every single time you step onto that field. Biggest thing is I’m just trying to win for these guys behind me they’re working their butt off just as hard as I am to get to their goals. So for me to slack off and not do my job wouldn’t be fair to them.
H.H: During your 2017 season you hit 14 HR’s, do you see your power developing into a bigger part of your game?
Jahmai Jones: I try not to think about it too much honestly. I just wanna hit the ball hard wherever it may be and try and get as many barrels as I can. If it happens to sneak out of the ballpark it’s good, but at the end of the day if I can just continue to do my work I’ll be alright.
Los Angeles Angels
Jahmai Jones is clearly a player who values the game and his teammates immensely, he knows his success is their success, and vice versa. Knowing that the guys around him rely on him as a teammate to push themselves towards goals of their own fuels the motivation behind the selfless 2nd baseman of the Inland Empire 66ers.
While Jones has moved to 2B to start this season he began his career in the outfield. Regarding his move to second, Jones had this to say:
H.H: You also played middle infield in highschool, do you find the return to second base to be a challenge?
Jahmai Jones: Not as big of a challenge as some may think. You know, I played there a majority of my life, and before pro ball I logged more games in the infield than the outfield. So right now it’s just trying to get used to the speed of the game, making sure that my fundamentals are sound, and I make these plays for these pitchers that are throwing everyday and working their butts off to get a win.
H.H: Do you miss playing the outfield?
Jahmai Jones: It’s here and there, I love just playing the game period. So where ever you put me I’m gonna have a good time and I’m gonna enjoy it.
H.H: Today is the end of your first week of the new season. How do you feel returning to the game?
Jahmai Jones: You know, I feel good. I feel like competitions back again. I love competition, I love playing against other people that aren’t in the same jersey as me. Just continue to do that and continue to work my butt off and hopefully we can bring a championship here.
Jahmai Jones strongly values his teammates and constantly puts himself out there not just for himself, but for the sake of the guys around him. As a ballplayer looking to rise through the ranks of the minor league ball it’s heartening to hear a guy who’s extremely valued for his personal talents speak in regards to the needs of his teammates, and likewise speak with a respect for the game.
Finally, regarding his experiences during this past Spring Training Jones had a lot to say about the teammates surrounding him in the big league clubhouse and the contrast between facing pitchers in Spring Training and the Minor Leagues.
H.H: What adjustments did you find yourself making after the Spring Training?
Jahmai Jones: Just working on my timing and my rhythm is the biggest thing. Just making sure I have those two keys every time I step in the box and if I do that I put myself in a good position to succeed.
H.H: In Spring Training did you any pieces of wisdom from current Angels big leaguers?
Jahmai Jones: Every single person in that locker room helped me, regardless if they knew it or not, and the biggest thing was the team camaraderie, the way they had their chemistry in the locker room and on the field. It was unbelievable to watch, I feel like we’re going to have a special year, and more special years to come.
H.H: What difference have you noticed regarding pitching in Spring Training and pitching during your minor league experiences?
Jahmai Jones: Just consistency. Everyones throwing more strikes, more consistent with their pitch location. Overall, everyone’s just trying to get everyone out and when you go up to the bigger levels in big league camp they’re working for a job, they’re working for a championship just as hard as we’re working to get to the big leagues. Everyone wants to win and everyone is coming at you with everything they’ve got, so big leaguers are a little more consistent with their pitches in any count they want too. When you come down here [Minor Leagues] you might get a little more leeway on certain pitches.
Jahmai Jones will surely make a fine addition to the LA Angels roster once his time arrives. But from the way Jones speaks about his love for the game, you can tell all that matters is playing the game and playing it the right way, and the time for that is now.