BALTIMORE (AP) — Adam Jones believes he can size up a person after a five-minute conversation.
Jones, on the other hand, is so complex that it might take a couple of decades to get a handle on all his likes and dislikes.
“My mom and brother are the only people that know me completely, and that’s 25 years of learning,” the Baltimore Orioles center fielder said. “But really, I’m simple. I do simple things.”
Jones makes playing baseball look easy. He patrols the outfield with flair and grace. More often than not will blow a big pink bubble while chasing down a liner in the gap.
He’s pretty good with a bat, too. Jones leads the Orioles with a .301 batting average, is tied for the team lead with 35 RBIs and ranks second with nine home runs.
“He’s a great player. He can do everything,” New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter said. “Adam can hit, and hit for power. He can obviously play great in the field and he has a strong arm. He’s got speed, he can steal bases.”
Off the field, Jones is much harder to analyze. He can ride a unicycle, enjoys watching hockey, loves crosswords and word search games and ignores ESPN in favor of the Food Network or National Geographic Channel. He has the body of an athlete and the appetite of a couch potato.
“I like fatty foods. I like fried foods,” he said. “But I usually just go with the salad.”
Life for Jones has always been about making decisions. As a young African-American in the inner city of San Diego, he picked baseball at a time when many of his friends became involved in drugs and crime.
Jones excelled at the game, and in 2003 he was drafted in the first round by the Seattle Mariners. He made his major league debut in 2006 and three years ago came to Baltimore as the key component in a trade that sent Orioles left-hander Erik Bedard to the Orioles for five players.
Jones’ upbringing is one big reason why he readily can blend into any baseball clubhouse and is eager to mingle with just about anybody.
“A lot of teammates I’ve played with, they grew up in Georgia and Alabama, and at some point in time they had to put up with racism. Me, I wouldn’t say I’m oblivious to it, but it never came up because of where I’m from: San Diego,” he said. “Don’t get me wrong, I know it’s everywhere. But it never really was part of my life. I don’t care what you are, if you’re a good person, you’re a good person.
“I’ve got tons of friends of multiple ethnic backgrounds. I think that’s cool. Because I took the five minutes to get to know them. I don’t care what you are, if you’re orange or baby blue. If you’re cool, I’m like, ‘What’s going on?'”
During the offseason, Jones accompanied teammates Rick Vandenhurk and Jeremy Guthrie on a trip through Europe. The trio participated in a series of baseball clinics in the Netherlands, Holland and Belgium, and added a visit to Paris into the mix.
Jones sampled nightlife abroad, but mostly absorbed himself in the culture through sightseeing trips and guided tours.
“That’s probably the thing that surprised me most about Adam,” Vandenhurk said. “He went to the Van Gogh museum, the Anne Frank House, the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower. He obviously enjoyed the history of Europe. It was a blast.”
Jones often pores over the pictures of his trip, which included a viewing of the Mona Lisa.
“It made me realize how many people are in this world,” Jones said. “It’s not just about the United States. We have 300 million, there are multiple countries with more people than us. There are so many people that I’ve never seen.
“That was the first time I went to Europe. It was awesome just to see the architecture. Those building are old! It was cool to see all that. Comparatively speaking, we’re the newbies of the world.”
Having played only three full seasons, Jones is a relative newcomer to the majors. He won a Gold Glove in 2009 and made the AL All-Star team, and last season he hit .284 with 19 homers and 69 RBIs. Although he’s on course to set career highs in several offensive categories this year, Jones acknowledges that nothing has come easy.
“I know what I can do. It’s a matter of how bad I want it, how hard I want to work. And I work my tail off,” he said. “This game is not easy. I’m learning every day, trying to improve myself. It’s a constant battle to improve. If you master something, then why do it? Nobody’s ever mastered baseball.
“I can only control so much. I can control what I swing at. Once I swing and hit the ball, it’s out of my hands. It’s in someone else’s hands. Then somebody else has to catch it. And I hope the person that catches it is sitting in the outfield seats with a beer and a hot dog.”
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)