Wesley Jones knows what it takes. He has seen it over and over.
The Redan junior watched last year as former teammate Deion Williams set an example on and off the field for his younger teammates. He watched a few years ago as Redan’s most famous baseball alum, Brandon Phillips, returned to field ground balls at a practice.
Williams, the latest in a long line of Redan players to be selected in the Major League Baseball draft, was taken by the Washington Nationals in 2011. Phillips was drafted by the Montreal Expos in 1999 and now is one of the game’s top infielders with the Cincinnati Reds. He has won three Gold Glove awards and has been twice selected as a National League All-Star.
“[The program] is bigger than me,” said Jones, who is Redan’s top pitcher and hitter this season. “I’ve had a chance to meet Brandon Phillips, and I saw what Deion did. It made me want it more. It pumped me up and got me motivated to work harder in class and help my teammates.”
Jones’ work ethic is the main thing that stands out for Raiders’ coach Marvin Pruitt.
“His best attribute is his work habit. He’s constantly on the field,” Pruitt said.
Jones is batting .511 with 20 RBIs and is 3-1 as a starting pitcher with an earned run average of less than 2.0 for the 10-4 Raiders. His first loss came against Dunwoody when three first-inning errors led to four Wildcat runs in a 4-0 loss. Jones allowed two earned runs in that game.
A three-year starter, Jones started his high school career as a third baseman but has been switched to shortstop this season. He also plays shortstop for his summer league team, the East Cobb Astros.
While Jones is off to a good start, Pruitt sees even more potential in the 6-foot-2 left-hander.
“This year’s he’s everything for us. He can handle it. He is used to the brand of baseball we require. He can be successful at any level as a third baseman. His hitting is strong and once he gets used to the new bats, he’s going to be even better.”
Jones has verbally committed to a scholarship to the University of Georgia, but Pruitt believes his star junior has the potential to become a solid MLB draft pick next summer.
“I really see him getting drafted and taking that option,” Pruitt said. Pruitt saw former players Brandon Phillips, P.J. Phillips and Chris Nelson verbally commit to Georgia, but all three chose to forgo college after being drafted.
“I think Wesley will do the same thing when the opportunity comes up,” Pruitt said.
Both Jones and his coach know there is plenty of work to be done before that may happen.
“I’ve always wanted to be someone people look up to,” Jones said. “I like to talk the team up, help them from my understanding of how the game works. I go over different situations and set an example on and off the field.”
Pruitt has seen the effect Jones has on his teammates and is hopeful he will continue to mature.
“He’s getting there,” Pruitt said. “It’s something he needs to work on. He’s the closest thing we have to a leader right now. We have six seniors but he has more credibility on the team than any of the seniors because of his ability and his time on the varsity.”
While Pruitt said he sees Jones as a third basemen in college or in the major leagues, Jones said he is comfortable as a shortstop. Jones said he is constantly working on his defense and trying to get to ground balls quicker. “I want to make the hard plays look easy,” he said.
Regardless of what position he plays in the future, Jones knows his chance won’t come without more dedication to the sport.
“There’s always something more to learn about the game,” Jones said. “I saw Brandon Phillips a while back come back here and take ground balls. It would be real hard living up to something like that. It made me set my goals to be successful at the next level.”