From Sun Magazine: Can Adam Jones connect?

One of the gutsiest Orioles — both online and on the field — is poised for a breakout year

  • Baltimore Orioles outfielder Adam Jones poses for the Sun Magazine.
Baltimore Orioles outfielder Adam Jones poses for the Sun Magazine. (Lloyd Fox, Baltimore Sun )
March 24, 2011|By Jean Marbella, The Baltimore Sun

SARASOTA, Fla. — In the relaxed atmosphere of spring training, the Orioles' locker room in Sarasota seems less pro athlete man cave than after-school rec center. Their workout over for the day by early afternoon, the players seem in no particular rush to head home. Jake Arrieta wheels in the bike he rides to and from the stadium every day; Nick Markakis carries in his 9-month-old son, quickly borrowed by Brian Roberts for a knee bounce, a cell phone picture and the answer to that mathematical question: What does cuteness squared look like?

From his corner piece of real estate, Adam Jones is yelling across the locker room to show Jeremy Guthrie something on his cell phone. Then, he's scrolling on his iPad, muttering under his breath as he flicks impatiently through pages of e-mails, Twitter feeds and his other digital connections to the outside world.

"I hate technology," he declares, unlikely as that may seem coming from one of the team's most avid online travelers. "That, and driving through Sarasota traffic. But it's necessary."

At 25, Jones comes off as a guy in a hurry. Nowhere, though, is that urgency more palpable than when it comes to the 2011 baseball season, one that arrives with great expectations for Jones personally and the team as a whole.

In the predicting/hoping mode that fuels spring training, the line on the talented centerfielder is that he is poised for a breakout year, and that the team, boosted by some key acquisitions over the winter, could finally turn around its demoralizing, 13-year string of losing seasons.

"On paper, it looks good," he says cautiously. "We've got an exciting team. We've got speed and power — that's enough right there. We've never had both at the same time."

But first things first on this sunny Florida spring day: a post-workout lunch, and yet another surprising declaration from the self-described "unpredictable" Jones.

"I feel like some Amish food," he says.

In his sleek black sedan with tinted windows, Jones makes his way from the Orioles' training facility to Yoder's restaurant in a nearby enclave of tricycle-riding Amish and Mennonites. Wearing black diamond earrings, dark sunglasses, jeans and a South Beach-logo'd shirt, he stands out amid the plain people, the bearded men and aproned women, but to no discernible discomfort on anyone's part. Everyone's attention instead is focused on the giant plates of deliciousness in front of them, or perhaps on trying to decide which of the famous pies to have for dessert. Jones orders that Amish specialty, a BLT, extra bacon, and a side order of mac and cheese.

"I smash bacon," Jones says, adding that it's one of two foods — eggs being the other — that he always has in his refrigerator. "You can never make it wrong. It's always good."

Jones has a relaxed, everything-is-cool California way about him, befitting his childhood in San Diego as "the baby" of two brothers and two sisters. He has random opinions and observations on just about everything from blue jeans (MEKs are better than True Religion) to fans at Camden Yards (they need to shout down those Yankee and Red Sox interlopers).

He still prefers what he calls the "fresher" West Coast to the East, and returns there in the off-season, but after three seasons with the O's he's developed some local ties. His girlfriend is Audie Fugett, a basketball player during her years at Roland Park Country School, and the daughter of Jean Fugett, the former NFL player who took over Beatrice International Foods, the largest black-owned business in the country at the time, after the death in 1993 of his brother, Reginald Lewis. She is currently a law student in New York.

Even before joining the Orioles in 2008, though, Baltimore was guaranteed a place in Jones' memory bank: It was here that the then-Seattle Mariner turned 21, striking out twice in a losing effort against his future team. But it wasn't a total loss, at least for one Baltimorean.

"I bought a homeless person a six-pack at one in the morning," Jones recalls of how he commemorated his first day of being able to buy booze legally.

These days, you're likely to see him at Sabatino's in Little Italy or, especially after games, Abbey Burger Bistro in Federal Hill.

While he generally uses the off-season to clear his head and "do nothing 24 hours a day," Jones had a busy winter. He traveled to Amsterdam, to participate in a teammate's baseball clinic, and Paris; played a superhero in a Nike commercial with Ken Griffey Jr., in Atlanta and attended the O's Fanfest in Baltimore.

You may know all that already if you're one of the more than 11,000 followers of his Twitter account, now called SimplyAJ10, in which Jones provides a running commentary on whatever is crossing his mind — as well as the occasional photo, such as one of a pristinely snow-blanketed Camden Yards in January that he took from the Warehouse while he was being photographed for this story.

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