In Orioles retirement ceremony, Adam Jones feels love from Baltimore, ‘my second home’

Published 9/15/2023 7:30 p.m. EDT, Updated 9/15/2023 9:55 p.m. EDT

Adam Jones is a host of The Adam Jones Podcast, which is sponsored by The Baltimore Banner.

In his 11-year playing career, there were things about Baltimore that never grew on Adam Jones.

“Berger cookies — not a big fan of those,” he quipped. “I brought back a box to Spain a couple weeks ago and didn’t touch them.”

But the city where Jones played the best years of his career, earning five All-Star berths, has shaped his life in so many other ways both large and small. His wife, Audie, went to Roland Park, and his two sons were born in Baltimore. He helped build or renovate six Boys and Girls Clubs throughout the area.

He still can drive through the city without the aid of a GPS. He recently visited his old wine retailer — the clerk remembered his order.

While he played in three MLB markets and last swung a bat professionally in Japan, there was really only one place he could officially retire — only one set of colors he could wear on his last day as a baseball player, which came Friday at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

“It is my second home,” Jones said at a familiar press conference table, where he once celebrated the biggest contract of his career in 2012. “Now [my sons] get to see how their lives have been shaped based on [me] rocking the black and orange. I’m forever grateful.”

It was a homecoming for Jones, and one of the biggest acknowledgements the franchise has made of a player from the mid-2010s, when Jones was perhaps the top fan favorite on teams that reached the postseason in 2012, 2014 and 2016. Aside from the stadium sellout, other figures from the era showed up along the basepaths for a pregame ceremony: Chris Davis, Darren O’Day and Nick Markakis among them.

Jones ran out with his two sons from the bullpen before doffing his cap. Standing at the mound with his family, he watched a team-produced video that finished with the caption: “FOREVER AN ORIOLE.”

Jones was one of the biggest stars from the last era of success for the Orioles until this season, and the end of his tenure was difficult as the franchise transitioned into a rebuild and pivoted toward youth — including some players still on the roster in Cedric Mullins, Anthony Santander and Austin Hays. He signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks as a free agent in 2019, and for a time his relationship with his second home seemed frosty.

But on Friday there was a substantial thaw. The team took the field for warmups wearing Jones’ No. 10 on the backs of their T-shirts. General manager Mike Elias shared the dais with Jones, gently advising him to just “button one button” of his ceremonial jersey for the occasion. Jones’ wife, sons and others in his circle filled out the first two rows of the press conference.

Sign Up for Alerts
Get notified of need-to-know
info from The Banner

Jones was beaming, a part of him seemingly made whole.

“I’m not the first person to exit a franchise not the way everybody expected,” he said. “Not everything is gonna be beautiful. But I was able to play 11 years — what have I got to gripe about?”

Jones has stayed attached to the current team, which he compared to the 2014 Kansas City Royals — an athletic, aggressive squad — even as he gritted his teeth. That was the Royals team that swept the Orioles on the way to the World Series. “It burns my soul to say it.” He’s glad to see the other side of the rebuild. “There’s nothing better once you’ve gone through the mud than when you get out.”

Although he now lives most of the year in Spain, Jones’ embrace in Baltimore is still strong. Mayor Brandon Scott declared it Adam Jones Day in Baltimore. While weekend attendance has grown over the course of the season and Friday’s game is a high-stakes matchup with Tampa Bay, it is probably not a coincidence that, once news of Jones’ retirement as an Oriole emerged, the game quickly sold out.

Jones said his brother-in-law still sends him pictures of people wearing his jersey in Camden Yards. Even as a new generation has taken hold on the field, Jones’ presence in the hearts of fans hasn’t gone anywhere.

“Ten is still a strong number here,” he said. “People still respect what I’ve done.”