On June 9th, fans had the opportunity to sit in on a Facebook Live Q & A with Akron RubberDucks third baseman Nolan Jones. RubberDucks broadcasters Marco LaNave and Jim Clark hosted this session, which covered over fifty questions, but not all were relevant to sports, e,g., do you own any rubber ducks? It should be noted that the questions and answers provided are paraphrased and placed in order by the relative category versus the order in which fans asked.
Nolan Jones was born in Langhorne, PA on May 7th, 1998. The Indians selected the left-handed hitting third baseman after his senior year at Holy Ghost Prep with the 55th pick of the second round in the 2016 draft. His time with the Tribe’s minor league affiliates has been filled with success. He has hit .283 with an on-base percentage (OBP) of .409. He’s belted 38 home runs, 34 of those coming over the last two seasons. Jones has been named a Rising Star in the Arizona Fall League, a Futures Game Selection, an MiLB.com Organization All-Star, along with many other awards. Baseball America named him as the Tribe’s top-rated prospect heading into the 2020 season. Fangraphs projects him to reach the majors for the 2021 season.
Q: How have you kept up on baseball with everything that is going on?
A: I get outside and take some swings two or three times each week.
Q: How’s being at home affecting your training?
A: I’m able to work out at home. I know a couple of local guys who have batting cages where I can practice. I’m finding ways to get work in any way I can.
Q: How’s your right thumb? [Jones suffered a thumb injury toward the end of the season.]
A: It’s doing good. I had a couple of setbacks. I had surgery after the fall league, spending the entire offseason in Arizona. It’s the first injury to take me away from the game. I did hurt my knee a couple of years ago in the instructional league, but that didn’t cost me any game time.
Q: With this being a potentially shortened season, who has the advantage, pitchers or hitters?
A: Pitchers have the advantage. They can have pitching sessions that are pretty close to game conditions. However, although hitters can take swings in the batting cage, they can’t simulate the type of movement a pitch can have during a game.
Q: What do you miss the most about not playing?
A: Everything. Bus trips, teammates. All of it.
Q: How did you feel arriving at Cooperstown Dreams Park? [This is a national invitational youth baseball tournament.]
A: I was 11 at the time. To me, it was the same feeling as walking into an MLB park. I wanted to win badly. I played there three times, twice when I was 11 and once when I was 12. We won when I was 12.
Q: How were sports big for your family?
A: I come from an athletic family. My 24-year-old brother is a goalie in the Colorado Avalanche organization, for their minor league team. We were very competitive with each other. I was a forward when I played hockey and was always trying to score on him. My younger sister is committed to Penn State University to play softball. But the best athlete in our family is my younger brother who plays baseball and hockey.
Q: Who was your favorite player growing up?
A: Big Papi. David Ortiz. I was a big Red Sox fan.
Q: What were your favorite teams growing up?
A: Flyers, Eagles, and the Red Sox. My dad didn’t like the Phillies, so I didn’t.
Q: How do you like playing for the Indians?
A: I love it. I believe that they really care about you. Today makes four years with the team.
Q: What is your daily routine?
A: I sleep as late as I need to. I’m a big believer in getting proper rest. Pregame stuff depends on the day, but usually, I take batting practice, work on groundballs, eat lunch, and then get some time in the training room.
Q: Do you have any pregame rituals or superstitions?
A: I’m not superstitious. My batting routine sees me tap the plate twice, take a deep breath, think about the next pitch, take a practice swing, and then tap the plate the same way every time.
Q: Have you had a lot of different walk-up songs in other cities?
A: They usually play Mr. Jones by the Counting Crows.
Q: Have you tried to play first or outfield?
A: No. I started as a shortstop, drafted as one, but moved to third because of my size. I used to pitch, mostly throwing fastballs. I did have a knuckle curve.
Q: What’s your favorite part of being a part of the RubberDucks family?
A: Akron is my favorite place to play. I like the city, the fans, and the stadium. However, I would like to see the centerfield wall moved in.
Q: Why do you wear your pants above the knee with thigh-high socks?
A: I saw Carlos Santana do it, and I liked it.
Q: What’s it like playing at Trenton?
A: It’s great. The stadium is 15 minutes from where I grew up. I went to games there as a kid. I once participated in a home run derby at that park.
Q: What is your favorite minor league city to visit or play?
A: Trenton. My favorite league to play in was the Midwest League. I really liked playing in Dayton because the fans were rowdy and the stadium was sold out. I also like playing at Hartford. The stadium is great, and the crowd is energetic.
Q: What is your favorite Ducks jersey to wear?
A: My favorite special jersey to wear this year was the Browns jersey. My favorite jersey we wear normally is the home white-on-white.
Q: Who is the toughest pitcher you have faced?
A: D.L. Hall from the Orioles. I struck out every time. He has a great fastball and disgusting curve.
Check back later for Part Two of this Q & A.