Jones enjoying life as established big leaguer

After seemingly never finding a way to get out of the minor leagues, Garrett Jones has established himself with the Pittsburgh Pirates.Jones appeared in 158 games with 21 home runs, 86 RBIs, 34 doubles and a .247 average for the middle-of-the-lineup presence. That also included home runs in his first two at-bats on Opening Day last season. Jones was a featured part of the Pirates Caravan at Ridgway Area Middle School to promote the new season“It’s a lot of fun just going around, getting to play games with them, watching them get excited, have fun and giving them a break out of class,“ Jones said. “I’m sure they appreciate that very much. It’s a lot of fun to see them laughing, smiling and getting ready for the new baseball season.” Jones said he has become much more recognized with his success with the Pirates. “Getting the cheers, that feels good to know you’re something good in the city,” Jones said. Now established in the major leagues means quite a lot to Jones. Established was a far cry from what Jones saw in baseball early in his career. A 14th round draft pick of the Atlanta Braves in 1999, Jones never saw the major league and was released from the Braves in 2002. He signed with the Twins in May 2002 and was mainly in the AAA level from 2005-2008, getting a big league callup in 2007. Jones signed a minor league contract with the Pirates in 2008 and was eventually brought up to the Pirates’ roster at the end of June 2009. “It’s a lot different. Just being in the minor leagues trying to get up here and play and establish myself and stay in the major leagues, just to be recognized a lot more, it means a lot,” Jones said. “I’ve had some success so far. Having people notice and backing you and supporting you, it’s a good feeling.”Jones said he has lost some weight in anticipation of the new season.“Last year, I felt a little too bulky and too stiff, I wanted to get back to my playing weight and get my flexibility and speed whether I was playing first base or outfield,“ Jones said. “They told me now that my majority will be in the outfield. I just want to be more agile. I feel good, feel strong and I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been in.” Jones also spoke of having a new coaching staff with new manager Clint Hurdle.“We got a new coaching staff and I think that’s going to be a huge step for us,” Jones said. “What Hurdle brings to the table is huge. His ability to control the team and kick players in the butts when things aren’t going well. I think he’s going to keep us on that track of not slipping off into the losing streaks or anything like that. Once we start having a few games, he’s going to be right there kicking us in the butt to get us back in the gear. And we got the talent, we have a lot of young guys that came up last year. We got a lot of talent on our team. We have the talent, coaches, players and staff to turn this thing around.”