CEDAR RAPIDS — Ryan Jones turned around and watched the replay on the scoreboard. He earned that right.
The Cedar Rapids Kernels center fielder made one of the best catches you’ll ever see last night in the second inning of a 10-2 loss to Wisconsin at Veterans Memorial Stadium. He sprinted back and to his left to try and catch up to a shot hit over his head by Max Walla in the right-center gap.
There was no way Jones was going to make this grab, yet he did, diving full out at the very last second and securing the ball in his glove as he crashed to the turf face down. The first person to greet and congratulate him as he returned to the dugout at inning’s end was teammate Chevy Clarke, the Kernels’ regular center fielder who was given the night off.
“It’s kind of funny because you look up and everyone (on the team) is just waiting to watch (the replay),” Jones said. “Makes it worthwhile. Though nothing’s better than coming back in the dugout and getting a pat from your pitcher. That means the world to me.”
As you could imagine, Jones called it one of the best catches he has ever made.
“Definitely in my top five,” he said. “It was just one of those things where the ball stayed up long enough for me to get there.”
“That’s one of the better plays you could ever see,” said Kernels Manager Jamie Burke. “That’s something that’ll always stick out in a lot of people’s minds. A long run and a great timing dive. Stretched out, Superman, and catching it. You just can’t get any better than that.”
Jones has been a consistent offensive and defensive presence for a Kernels club that dropped to a season-worst 23-30 with a sixth loss in its last seven games. He’s versatile, with the ability to play all three outfield positions effectively.
Normally his team’s second-place hitter, Jones has a .283 batting average with five triples, which is second by one in the Midwest League to former Cedar Rapids Prairie prep Scott Schebler of Great Lakes. He’s an older guy at 24, signed as a non-drafted free agent the winter of 2011 after playing four years for his hometown Wichita State.
Jones was all ready to play for the Southern Illinois Miners of the independent Frontier League when the Angels called him and finally gave him his shot in affiliated baseball.
“It was pretty agonizing, I’d say,” Jones. “During the (MLB) draft I was told so many different things. You know ‘You’re going here, you’re going there.’ But I didn’t get drafted and ended up playing in a summer league. You don’t want to be playing there. You want to be playing where someone is paying you … Then that January, the Angels called.”
The Kernels continue to get inadequate pitching, as starter Austin Wood (2-4) was removed after two-thirds of an inning and five runs against. The parent Angels have new pitch-count philosophies for their younger arms. They are limited to a certain number of pitches per game, as usual, but also a certain number of pitches per inning.
That particular 36-pitch limit hit Wood last night and forced his removal. Same thing happened in the first inning last week to Cam Bedrosian in a game at Beloit.
“It puts stress on your arm, these long innings like that,” Burke said. “For a younger pitcher, that’s stress on their arm.”
Here is the game boxscore: