By: Jack Wright
In order to put into perspective what Pendleton County native Nate Jones accomplished in 2012, a little history is necessary. By all accounts researched, only one other person from Pendleton County has played Major League Baseball in the history of the game. It has been more than a century (1910) since a gentleman named Frank Browning, from Pendleton County, was a starting pitcher for the Detroit Tigers. According to the records, Browning pitched in the major leagues that one year. Therefore, in 2012 Nate Jones became only the second person in the history of Pendleton County to play Major League Baseball in the history of the game.
And, my-oh-my, what a year the 2012 baseball season was for Nate Jones! Only two years ago, Nate finished the 2010 season as a successful starting pitcher for the Winston-Salem (North Carolina) Dash, an advanced single-A division minor league affiliate of the Chicago White Sox. Last year, Jones was named "Pitcher of the Year" as a relief pitcher for the Birmingham (Alabama) Barons, a double-A division minor league affiliate of the White Sox.
Jones went to spring training this year with the White Sox knowing only a select few are chosen to play for the major league team straight from the double-A division and skipping the triple-A division. However, in spring training this year Jones was more determined than ever to show the White Sox management he was ready for the challenge. And, show them he did!
The 26-year old, six-foot-five-inch, 220-pound, right-handed flame-thrower with the 98-99 mile-per-hour fastball, a knee-buckling slider and an occasional change-up appeared in 10 spring training games, pitched 10.2 innings and struck out 17 batters. In a completely unexpected move, the Sox named Jones as a member of their 25-player major league roster at the end of spring training. Needless to say, he, his family, friends and fans were ecstatic!
Okay, so making the major league roster is one thing. Performing on a daily basis at the major league level as a rookie is another. It didn't take long for everyone to get a feel for what was to come. Jones made his major league debut on Sunday, April 8, 2012 in Arlington, Texas versus the defending American League champion, Texas Rangers. As he entered the game to begin the bottom of the 7th inning, obviously quite nervous, Jones walked the first two batters he faced. After a visit to the mound by the pitching coach, all Jones had to do was get the next batter to hit into a double-play, then strike out the 2010 American League Most Valuable Player, Josh Hamilton. Well, guess what? He did just that! The "Tweet Trends Scale" went abuzz with news about Nate Jones.
As a relief pitcher for the 2012 Chicago White Sox in the American League Central Division of Major League Baseball, Nate Jones had a rookie season that can only be described as spectacular. Although wins and losses are not suppose to relate much to relief pitchers, Jones was the American League relief pitching leader in wins with eight and recorded zero losses. He also was the White Sox relief pitching leader with 71.2 innings pitched. He appeared in 65 games, allowed 67 hits, 19 runs (all earned) equating to a 2.39 earned-run-average, 32 walks (three intentional), one hit batsman, and four home runs. He also struck out 65 batters.
More incredibly is what Jones managed to accomplish during the second half of the season (from the All-Star on) and during September, the "toughest month" for contending teams in Major League Baseball.
From the All-Star game until the end of the season, Jones appeared in 32 games, recorded 5 wins and 0 losses, pitched 33 innings, allowed 30 hits, 15 walks, 6 runs (all earned) equating to an 1.64 earned-run-average and recorded 28 strike outs.
The Chicago White Sox lead the American League Central Division for 117 days during the 2012 season leading up to the last two weeks. Unfortunately, they were overtaken by the Detroit Tigers in those last two weeks and lost the division title. However, in his last 23 appearances in the 2012 season Jones accomplished the following: 24.1 innings pitched while allowing only one earned run.
Again, what a spectacular rookie Major League Baseball season it was for Pendleton County native, Nate Jones!
Oh yeah, there was one other occurrence that might be note worthy about Jones' 2012 season. During the All-Star break, while Jones was home for a few days, he and his wife, Lacy Wright Jones, announced to family and friends they are expecting their first child (a girl) due sometime in March, just in time for spring training.
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