Adam Jones was the face of the organization when Austin Hays was called up to the Orioles in 2017. Hays was intimidated walking around the “star-studded” clubhouse for the first time, surrounded by Jones, Manny Machado and Chris Davis. He kept his head down and mouth shut, then paid close attention to how Jones conducted himself.
The biggest thing Hays learned from “Jonesy” was about health — he rarely missed a game.
“The best ability was availability. He took a lot of pride in that,” Hays said.
Jones finished his career in Baltimore with the 10th-most starts in franchise history. He returned to Camden Yards for the first time since 2018, stepping back onto the field he called home for 11 seasons Friday. There was only one reason he came back.
“It’s Gaba. Period. Nothing else,” Jones said.
July 28 is Mo Gaba Day at Camden Yards, celebrating the life of the late 14-year-old Baltimore superfan who fought cancer four times and was inducted into the Orioles Hall of Fame a day before his death. Sonsy Gaba, Mo’s mom, threw the first pitch to Jones before the O’s took on the Yankees. Jones was welcomed with a standing ovation.
The former All-Star also played the role of Mr. Splash, spraying fans in the Bird Bath section at the start of the bottom of the second. Unsurprisingly, he pied a fan before taking over for the original Mr. Splash, donning the orange lettering “Capt Splash” on the back of his No. 10 City Connect jersey. He wore a swan around his waist, blue floaties, a bucket hat, sunglasses and scuba goggles.
Jones said on a live recording of The Adam Jones Podcast Thursday night that he would take some liberties, “spraying the hell out of whoever is there” rather than following the extra-base-hit rule. He doused fans for the first time after a Ryan Mountcastle single.
“I’m spraying per pitch,” Jones said. “I’m spraying my damn self too.”
Luckily, the temperature dipped into the 70s by the time a 2 1/2-hour rain delay was over. He stayed out there until the end of the fourth.
Jones’ last time at Camden Yards was Sept. 30, 2018, when Baltimore won 4-0 over the Astros. The end of his relationship with the O’s was rocky because he vetoed a trade to the Phillies months before, after it was brought up to him four days before the deadline.
“I got to do something on my own terms in sports,” Jones said on the first episode of “The Adam Jones Podcast,” which conducted a live recording Thursday at Baltimore Soundstage.
Jones remembered arriving at Yankee Stadium after the deadline, comparing it to the last scene of “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” in which Will Smith stares at the empty house around him. Manny Machado had been traded two weeks prior, and Kevin Gausman and Jonathan Schoop were gone too by then.
“I came back to that locker room in New York, and it was different,” Jones said. “But it’s business.”
Jones doesn’t have any animosity toward the Orioles. He didn’t feel a trade to the Phillies was best for his career, so he took the opportunity to finish his contract before heading to the Diamondbacks in 2019. He’s still fond of his final season in Baltimore as he got to mentor the likes of Cedric Mullins and Austin Hays, who are now staples in the O’s outfield.
Hays sees locals wearing Jones jerseys at the ballpark or around the city, saying his impact as the “heart and soul” of the team still resonates today. Hays and Mullins even joined Jones at the local YMCA Friday morning, playing with Baltimore youth for an hour.
“It was nice to see him; he meant a lot to this organization; he meant a lot to this community,” Hays said. “He made a big difference here in Baltimore.”
Hays sees similarities between this year’s team and the squads Jones was a part of, mainly because of the All-Star-caliber talent from both eras. But Jones knows his time is over. He’s excited about the “new regime” the Orioles have in place, displaying a different, faster style of baseball from what he’s used to.
“They’re good, and they’re hungry,” Jones said. “They’re not afraid of the name, the fandom, the stadium or the city they go to on the road.”
Jones said this year’s team “wins even when they lose,” a saying by Bobby Jones that he heard from former Orioles first base coach Wayne Kirby.
“As you’ve seen throughout this year, they’ve been able to correct every single hiccup,” Jones said.
On Friday, he saw those adjustments in person.
“As a fan, I’m going to watch as everyone else is and cheer them on,” Jones said.