While Jones’ gaudy numbers and glowing physical traits draw all the focus, what separates him isn’t so easily noticeable.
“I admire the player,” Wesleyan coach Brian Krehmeyer said. “But I love the person.”
Jones usually was the first person to dash out of the dugout to celebrate with teammates. When his coach emailed the team after the season asking if anyone could play catch with an aspiring 9-year-old ballplayer, Jones was the first to volunteer – within 10 minutes. Before his senior year, Jones checked with his teachers about working ahead so that he wouldn’t fall behind in schoolwork while he attended baseball showcases and events.
Those might seem like small things, but they add up. Sometimes, players of Jones’ stature fall by the wayside because of the traits hidden beneath the physical qualities. But Krehmeyer ensures Jones has that sixth tool - the right mental makeup - too.
If Jones has those intangibles, it’s more likely he reaches his best possible outcome: becoming a multiple-time major-league All-Star, just as his dad was five times for the Braves (2000, 2002-03, 2005-06).
Wesleyan provided a comfort zone for Jones, conducive for his growth as a player and human. “At school, he was just Druw, not Druw Jones,” Krehmeyer said. The coach also believes it helped that Cooper Blauser, the son of Jeff, another former Brave, was Jones’ classmate since kindergarten as the two navigated similar circumstances.
Jones’ family was, of course, most important. Krehmeyer calls Jones a “mama’s boy – and I mean that in a good way.” He credited Jones’ mother, Nicole, for instilling politeness. Jones is known as a respectful young man, showing the simplest manners such as pushing in his chair after eating and always saying ‘thank you,’ ‘yes ma’am’ and ‘yes sir.’ Jones had a strong support system with his mother, father and grandparents.
The environment helped Jones develop early maturity. He couldn’t control the constant fanfare surrounding him, but he could control how he handled it. He preferred staying low-key. He wanted to share the spotlight with his teammates rather than embracing it for himself.
“Druw seemed to get more excited about his teammates success than he was about his own feats,” Krehmeyer said. “That was endearing to his teammates, that it was not about him. In fact, throughout the season, scouts would ask if could he take on-field (batting practice)? ‘Can we get more looks at Druw?’
“Druw said early on, ‘Coach, I’m not going to do anything that my teammates don’t do. I don’t want to be singled out for batting practice. I don’t want you to do anything special for me that you’re not going to do for the rest of my teammates.’”
Jones is uniquely equipped to handle major-league pressure. He’s been a focal point the past few years, the son of a Braves legend who long has been considered a remarkable prospect. Each Wesleyan game drew a bevy of MLB scouts. Each plate appearance prompted adults and kids alike to record it on their phones. Jones even was forced to decline some pesky autograph collectors before games – he signs only personalized autographs, knowing the general ones often are only for auction.
He didn’t live a normal life for most high schoolers, even by cream-of-the-crop athlete standards. Yet Jones handled it with grace and professionalism, his coach said.
“Druw was incredibly humble as a player and encouraging as a teammate,” Krehmeyer said. “He handled the publicity and the scrutiny and the attention incredibly well. He never allowed that to get in the way of what he could do for the team or what the team had set out to accomplish. It was never about Druw and his opportunities, it was always about the team goals. That’s where his humility really shows out, and that’s what endeared him to his teammates, as well.”
Jones committed to play at Vanderbilt, but he seems as likely to play for the Commodores as Aaron Judge is to sign with the A’s this winter. The MLB draft differs from the NFL and NBA editions because the best player doesn’t always go first. There are numerous factors at play because of the system structure and bonus pools.
If the Orioles don’t take Jones at No. 1, that’s not necessarily because they don’t view him as the draft’s top talent. By most indications, he is. Baseball America ranks Jones No. 1 overall in the class, calling him the “industry’s consensus top prospect.”
That’s a testament to Jones’ ability, given the impressive group of position players atop this class (among those players is another offspring of a major leaguer in prep shortstop Jackson Holliday, Matt’s son). There’s no surefire method for scouting, but Jones possesses every desirable metric, which makes him the favorite to go first. What he’s proved mentally thus far ties his talents together.
“To go through life with the same name as your father, who was such an outstanding player, and to have those comparisons hurled upon you from the time you could barely put a glove on your hand to this point, and to do it all so well, and handle yourself with such grace, he was born to be the top pick,” Krehmeyer said.
Jones will learn the next step in his journey Sunday, when the draft begins. Keeping with his low-key theme, he’ll watch the draft with family and friends in metro Atlanta rather than attend the event in Los Angeles.