Former Sun Devil Mitch Jones Playing In Arizona Fall League

Oct. 6, 2004

SCOTTSDALE - The Arizona State University baseball team's single-season home run leader has returned to his old stomping ground.

Former Sun Devil Mitch Jones, a utility player with the Class AA Trenton Thunder of the Eastern League, made his Arizona Fall League debut Tuesday for the Grand Canyon Rafters and is expected to play today against the Peoria Javelinas at Scottsdale Stadium.

The Rafters are the 'other' team that calls Scottsdale Stadium home for the duration of the six-week season, whenever the Scottsdale Scorpions aren't hosting one of the other four teams in the league.

Jones, 26, comes home after a productive season in which he hit a league-best 39 home runs with the Thunder, a New York Yankees affiliate. He finished first with 68 extra-base hits, second with 92 runs scored and third with 97 runs batted in.

'It was something that I've always wanted to do,' Jones said of playing in the Arizona Fall League. 'I've wanted to play in this league since I played college ball.

'It's definitely exciting coming back to where I played, with the memories and going to college here.'

One of five players who joined the Rafters from the Yankees' farm system, Jones sees the short stint in the Arizona Fall League as an opportunity to prove himself heading into spring training.

It's unclear whether Jones will return to Trenton next year or be activated to the Class AAA Columbus Clippers, where former Sun Devil Mike Kelly played this past season. There's even a chance that Jones will leave the Yankees organization.

'There are a lot of different scenarios out there right now,' said Jones, who is staying with family in Gilbert. 'I don't know what will happen. With all the scenarios out there right now, I'm not sure what next year will bring.'

Jones is known as a power hitter. That's no surprise, considering that he won a home run hitting contest this summer at the Eastern League's all-star game.

As a senior at ASU, Jones hit a school-record 27 home runs, including a memorable blast against the University of Arizona that enabled the Sun Devils to claim a share of the 2000 Pac-10 championship.

The previous record of 25 home runs was held by Bob Horner, the No. 1 pick in the 1978 Major League Baseball amateur draft.

'That's a nice record to have, and it's something that's fun to hold,' said Jones, who finished his ASU career with 38 home runs, the seventh-most in school history. 'I assume that somebody will break that, but as long as they don't, it's a nice record to be a part of.'

Jones claims that being a power hitter is natural for him, just like hitting for contact is natural for some position players.

'It's just something that I've always kind of done,' he said. 'That has kind of been my game growing up. That's just the way I play, and hopefully I'll continue doing it that way.'

Jones realizes that he needs to develop more consistency to reach the next level. In 137 games this season, he batted .246, giving him the fourth-worst average on the Thunder. He also struck out a team-high 152 times.

'The more you play, and the more you're in game situations, the more you mature,' Jones said.

Jones figures that his knack for hitting the long ball could turn into a promising career in the majors - and he's more than willing to give up his title as the Eastern League's strikeout king.

'It takes some patience to get there, and different guys get there at different times,' Jones said. 'But if you put up numbers, you'll get your chance.'

By Brian Gomez
Special for the Scottsdale Republic

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