With his six-year, $85.5 million contract extension official, Orioles center fielder Adam Jones sat between his two bosses — manager Buck Showalter and club executive vice president Dan Duquette — on Sunday and said Baltimore is where he belongs.
"I fit here in this city. I fit here on this team. I fit in at Camden Yards. I really don't see myself wearing another white uniform that doesn't have 'Orioles' across the chest," Jones said. "If we win here, this is my championship, this is our championship. I'm not part of someone else's championship. Putting all that in perspective, that makes me even hungrier to win."
The 26-year-old San Diego native, who joined the Orioles from the Seattle Mariners in 2008 as part of the Erik Bedard trade, is now locked up through 2018 with the largest contract ever handed out by the club.
"Everybody knows I am not from Baltimore, but this is now my town," he said. "So I want to relish it and win baseball games."
During his introductory comments, Jones doled out plenty of thank-yous: to the club's ownership, management and coaching groups; to his mother, girlfriend and agent; and to three important baseball mentors — Tony Gwynn in San Diego; Ken Griffey Jr. in Seattle; and former Oriole Mark McLemore, who attended the same high school as Jones and has become like an older brother to the Orioles' center fielder.
Jones also praised his current teammates, including the four that attended the news conference: Right fielder Nick Markakis, second baseman Robert Andino, shortstop J.J. Hardy and pitcher Jake Arrieta.
"Now I don't have to worry about trade deadline, free agency. I don't have to worry about that. Just worry about being part of the best team in baseball, being part of the 25 that goes out there and plays baseball," Jones said. "And know that I am going to be here in Baltimore, a great baseball city. It's coming back. We've got to prove to the fans that we are for real and we are slowly doing it. And I think this is a big step in that right direction."
Duquette said he believes the decision to extend Jones' contract — something he normally doesn't like to do in-season — should send the message that the Orioles are committed to reversing a trend of 14 losing seasons.
"To have a great team in Baltimore, we have to find and keep players like Adam, players that are willing to make the sacrifices for the team and do the little things that we all know helps teams win games," Duquette said. "This commitment by the Orioles reflects the fact that Adam Jones is more than a fine player. He's a leader in our community and he's a winner. He has heart, and his work in the community makes clear that his heart is in the right place."
Jones has become one of the most visible Orioles in the community, working primarily with inner-city kids, including the club's RBI (Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities) program. Members of the Gardenville baseball team, consisting of 13- to 15-year-old kids that Jones has worked with, attended the conference.
"I definitely want to make a mark on this city. … In the community, you gotta give 100 percent to try to make a difference. If I am able to help one kid get better in baseball, get better in school, get a job, something positive, I think I've succeeded," he said. "So far I've helped a couple hundred and … that's almost as fulfilling as playing Major League Baseball."
Ultimately, though, what Jones has done in the field is what has made him baseball's second-highest-paid center fielder behind only the Los Angeles Dodgers' Matt Kemp. A one-time All-Star and Gold-Glove winner, Jones is currently among the league leaders in myriad offensive categories. He has a team-leading 14 homers and 31 RBIs and is batting .308.
"The dude rang the cash register every time he hit a home run," Duquette joked. "So I mean Adam kind of forced the issue, didn't he?"
Wieters wanted in
Catcher Matt Wieters was originally supposed to be off Sunday, but he walked into Showalter's office a few hours before game time and said he felt good and wanted to play.
Since the Orioles are scheduled for two off days in the next eight days, Showalter acquiesced. He changed the lineup, removing reserve catcher Ronny Paulino and adding Wieters behind the plate to catch Brian Matusz. Wieters was 1-for-3 in the game.
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