Catching on quickly

Junior+catcher+P.J.+Jones+at+practice%2C+Tuesday%2C+Feb.+11.

Junior catcher P.J. Jones at practice, Tuesday, Feb. 11.

Chris Shaw | Evergreen Baseball reporter

Getting named after his father put junior catcher P.J. Jones Jr. in a pickle. The ‘P’ stands for Patrick, just like his dad who he looks up to more than anybody else. The ‘J’ stands for Jones, so the roster lists his name as Patrick Jones Jones Jr., if someone were to read it out all the way. 

Jones Jr. said it just stands for Patrick Junior. He said it is way better than what his name almost was: Paris. 

However, even if explaining his name isn’t easy, playing sports always came naturally to the man who now plays baseball for WSU. Jones started playing baseball at age 10 after watching Little League games with his dad. He was also intrigued by watching his father play slow-pitch softball. 

He signed up for baseball and also began playing football at about the same time. Coming from an athletic family that excels in sports, it seemed fitting that Jones found his niche in both sports.

 “They both came pretty easily for me,” Jones said. “It was just because I’ve always been around sports and just loved playing them.” 

Jones was positively reinforced immediately by both sports. He recalls that during his first at-bat in baseball, he hit a double and slid into second, which resulted in the first red-sliding mark on his leg. 

Football gave him the same rush. In his first play of football, Jones ran a 60-yard touchdown. However, Jones began traveling and playing at higher levels for baseball, which made it easier for him to pursue it as the sport he would play in college. 

As a young player, Jones said he saw himself as a utility player who could perform anywhere on the diamond. He played catcher, which is his position now, but he also pitched and played outfield and shortstop.

“We knew he would become a great defender once he caught all the time,” WSU baseball Head Coach Donnie Marbut said. “He was never a full-time catcher until college, so we knew his game would pick up once he did it more.”

Marbut said Jones can be a leader of the defense and is a very good offensive player, so now that he has come into his own as a player, he will be exciting to watch.

Jones made an immediate impact as a freshman. He started in 28 games and played in 36. He batted above .300 that year and drove in 20 runs. Once again, his natural athletic ability and his competitive background paid off. 

“I’ve always been pretty confident in my game, so I knew as a freshman I had a lot to learn, and I was learning as I went,” Jones said. 

Now that Jones is a junior, he has had time to develop into a catcher and especially alongside senior catcher Collin Slaybaugh, who is one of Jones’ best friends on the team and has given Jones some tips on how to perfect his craft. 

“I’ve actually put a lot of time into getting better at catching because it’s not just one position you can just go into and be fine,” Jones said. “You have to learn how to transform in to a catcher, and that’s what I’m learning is just the process of becoming a true catcher.”

Jones is still the same player. He is versatile enough to play anywhere on the field and gifted enough to play multiple sports. He has just settled into the position behind the plate, perhaps for the reason he gave for volunteering to catch as a kid: getting to squat, wear gear, and be in the action on every play.