When Adam Jones' major league career is a distant memory, the Orioles center fielder wants to be remembered as the player who, as Adam put it, "played his (butt) off."
Jones used a slightly different choice of words.
"Hustler" is an old-fashioned term that isn't used much in the major leagues any more. Modern players say, "He plays the game hard." "Hustle" just has a better ring to it. Maybe if the word was used more, players today would value what it means.
I can remember as a kid growing up in the early '80s we learned to hustle by imitating Pete Rose running the base paths. It was considered cool. I'm not sure where that was lost, but somehow it became normal for major leaguers to accept ground balls and even fly balls as outs. It's a part of the game that drives purists crazy.
Just like pop sensation Justin Timberlake brought "Sexy Back," apparently Jones is starting a one-man campaign to bring "hustle back." It's been very apparent in the first 20 games of the season and hasn't gone unnoticed by manager Buck Showalter.
"I don't think anyone has played harder since day one of spring training than Adam Jones," Showalter recently told reporters.
Spectacular defense has been Jones' most flashy examples of hustle, but his determination can also be seen in at-bats like Sunday's ninth inning against Yankees closer Mariano Rivera. Jones bore down through a 10-pitch at-bat to draw a key walk. To me, that's mental hustle.
The 25-year-old has also shown he isn't scared to bunt for a single - on more than one occasion. Some just say that's resourceful. Perhaps it's another example of what Showalter calls, "want to."
For Jones, hustle is an obligation of sorts. "Somebody said to me while I was on deck the other day, 'Keep playing hard.' I said, 'It's the least I can do.' The ball is hit, the least I can do is run," said Jones. "It's hard to control the results of the game, but I can always control how I go about my business and that's something I've really taken a hold of."
Jones has also become very vocal about the Orioles not bowing down to the American League East powerhouses. He's watched opposing teams' fans take over Camden Yards for three years now. "Anytime I get an opportunity to play the Red Sox, the Yankees, I want to go out and I want to win," said Jones. "I don't remember them being 162-0 ever, so somebody somewhere along the line has been beating them, and I want to be the ones who come out victorious. Why not have that mindset? I want to be a winner."
It's been refreshing watching Jones morph into a throwback player of sorts, one who is not only versatile, but who can't stand to lose. It shows a tremendous amount of respect for the game. As he said, he still has so much to learn and accomplish in baseball, but he's going about it the right way.
Tune into the Mid-Atlantic Sports Report Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. on MASN to catch Adam Jones' full interview with Amber Theoharis