When Nate Jones signed with the Cincinnati Reds, Sam McClanahan became the point person for coverage of Jones time with his hometown team.
KPA awarded McClanahan with a third place honor in Best Extended Coverage for the 13 stories that detailed Jones signing with the Reds, cancelling then restart to the season, his play and his release.
The judge said, "Weekly stories about a hometown hero playing with the big club..that's the stuff small community journalism is all about. A player and his wife talked regularly with his hometown paper, giving readers an insight to a player that few other journalists could possibly have."
The first story had graphics created by Sarah Beckett and Scott Collins and it earned a third place finish in the Best Graphic category.
That first story and last story is below.
Seeing Red: Jones signs with Cincinnati
Like most kids who grew up around this area following baseball during the 90’s and early 00’s, Nate Jones marveled at the abilities of Cincinnati Reds standout players such as Barry Larkin, Chris Sabo, Ken Griffey Jr., and Adam Dunn.
As his own baseball journey unfolded, he never let go of the dream to possibly one day put on the uniform and represent the team he grew up rooting for.
That dream has now become a reality.
On Jan. 7, the veteran free agent reliever agreed to terms on a one-year minor league contract with an invite to Spring Training with the Cincinnati Reds.
The official announcement came on Jan. 14 after he had passed a physical conducted by the club’s medical staff. The opportunity to play at home for the soon-to-be 34 year old was something he says that he simply could not pass by.
“It’s not everyday that you get the opportunity to play for your hometown team while having the opportunity to stay at your home during the course of the season,” Jones explained.
“This is a dream come true,” he added.
While his pact with the Reds is not a guarantee, should he not make the big league roster he would begin the season at the teams Triple A affiliate in Louisville; Jones says he’s never been more motivated to prove that he can still be that shut down reliever who thrived during his early days with the Chicago White Sox. As he continues to rehab from surgery last May to repair a torn right flexor mass, he says he’s feeling very good today and his offseason workout routine has been nearly the same as past year’s.
According to Jones longtime agent, Joe Speed, the chance at a fresh start in a new location was something that he welcomed. When that opportunity to join the Reds was presented, it appeared to be the obvious destination of choice for everyone involved.
“My job is to advise Nate about all of the options that were available to him, and there were multiple. But the Reds presented a situation that could not only be a dream come true for him, but also his family and friends,” Speed said.
Should Jones return to top form and make the big league roster following the completion of Spring Training, which gets underway in Goodyear, AZ on Feb. 14, he’ll undoubtedly be accompanied at Great American Ballpark in downtown Cincinnati by his legion of hometown fans known as “Nate’s Nation” who are equally as excited about the potential that lies in this signing. The Reds front office has ramped up efforts to put a contending club on the field, and that aggressive effort also played a role in Jones decision.
“You look at the moves they’ve already made this offseason, and you can’t help but be impressed. They have a quality starting rotation and some excellent pitchers in the bullpen. Their pitching coach, Derek Johnson, is also very highly respected around the game. I also can’t help but to think of all the fans in Pendleton County who have followed and supported me throughout my career. I’m as motivated right now as I’ve ever been to get back to where I know I can be and make the team so everyone at home can have the chance to come watch us play on Opening Day” Jones explained.
Jones went onto say that he expects to begin throwing from flat ground soon which will transition to multiple bullpen sessions between now and when he and his family will make the trip to Arizona on Feb. 9
Jones released by Reds
The lifelong dream to pitch for his hometown team came to an abrupt end for Pendleton County resident Nate Jones. He was released by the Cincinnati Reds just before the conclusion of the regular season.
Jones final appearance came on Sept. 21 versus the Milwaukee Brewers to begin the ninth inning. Cincinnati led 6-1 as Jones allowed a single to the first batter he faced. After he retired the next two batters, he would serve up a two-run home run ball before rallying to record the third and final out as the Reds held on to notch a 6-3 win. The next day, the club announced the news that Jones would be designated for assignment as the corresponding move to allow room for starting pitcher Sonny Gray to return to the active roster. Jones was then placed on waivers giving the other 29 teams in MLB the opportunity to claim him. On Sept. 25, Cincinnati announced that Jones had not been claimed and would subsequently be released making him a free agent.
“We weren’t expecting him to be picked up by another team, but in baseball you never know,” said Jones wife, Lacy.
“With teams postseason rosters already being set and submitted to the league, there was no chance for him to be eligible to pitch in the postseason and with him only being signed through this season, there wasnt really any incentive for him to be claimed,” she added.
Jones final stats for this season include and 0-1 record in 21 appearances, he tallied 18.2 innings pitched with an ERA of 6.27
to go with 23 strikeouts. Looking ahead to 2021, the future of Jones big league career looks unclear at least for the time being. Jones says that the knowledge he gained from his Reds teammates and coaches will aid him going forward.
“I was lucky to be able to be around a lot of talented guys and there was an abundance of information available to me. I look forward to taking what Iearned and seeing what works best for me going forward,” said the veteran righthander.
Despite what the future holds, Jones and family know that one thing they can continue to count on is the local support he’s received from friends and family throughout his native Pendleton County. As Lacy Jones noted the family remains extremely grateful for the support they have received.
“It definitely stings the way this all came to an end, but it was such a dream to be with the Reds this season. There was so much excitement and we just felt so much support. I am so proud of Nate to keep coming back the way he has. It hasn’t always been an easy road and he has worked very hard to still be playing.”