When: Today (Rounds 1-2, 7 p.m.); Tuesday (Rounds 3-10, 1 p.m.); Wednesday (Rounds 11-40, 12 p.m.)
Where: Secaucus, N.J.
Broadcast: MLB Network (Round 1); MLB.com (Live Stream, All Rounds)
The extra attention all season never fazed Hayden Jones. By now, it's just background noise.
After attending multiple scouting events last year, the Carroll senior and four-year starting catcher will most likely hear his name called early in the 2018 MLB Draft, which starts today with the first two rounds.
“It hasn't really been that bad,” Jones said. “In Florida, there were scouts packed around the field. I've gotten to used it, so I didn't really notice anything that would stress me out about it.”
The grandson of Bill Jones, who coached DeKalb to the 1980 state title, and the son of Ken Jones, a professional baseball player who played one game in the major leagues, Hayden Jones' pedigree stands unquestioningly established. Jones explained his father and grandfather primed him for this moment at every opportunity, pushing him to excel on the diamond in myriad ways.
That included signing him up for youth leagues two years older for several years. The move was accompanied by a steady hand coaching, all with the mindset of helping Jones achieve his optimum potential.
“Growing up with my dad being a coach and my grandpa on the other side, it really pushed me to a higher ability than I was at,” Jones said. “They would always push me to the next level. You knew who the coach's son was for sure. They pushed me to the next level instead of coddling me.”
That added focus paid off.
As a senior, Jones led the Chargers with a .494 batting average, ranking in the top 10 statewide in home runs (10 – tied for fifth) and slugging (.966 – ninth). Jones has a baseball scholarship to Mississippi State if he and the team drafting him can't come to terms.
Though the Bulldogs play in what's considered the top collegiate baseball conference in the country, Jones has already experienced that level of coaching – and what expectations accompany playing at that level – firsthand.
“Once you get to college,” Jones said, “the Mississippi State coaches will jump a kid's butt. That'll help me later on, being able to handle that type of coaching.”
So what kind of ballplayer will the team drafting Hayden Jones receive? One who's experienced calling pitches, one with a gift to play the game, one with a great baseball lineage, according to Carroll coach Dave Ginder.
“His ability to throw the baseball (from behind the plate) is not normal,” Ginder said. “What he does as far as times to second base, that has to be something that scouts see and say, 'Wow, that's different,' and sets him apart. His arm strength is a gift. He's worked hard to improve his arm strength, but there's some God-given ability he's been blessed with as well.”
The Jones family plans to watch the draft's first day. As for the second day? Hayden Jones has a prior engagement – commencement practice. If he's drafted during practice, the team selecting him will reach his father.
“I know (the draft will) be one thing I'll be interested in (during commencement practice),” Hayden Jones said. “We'll talk it over as a family and get on the same page. They know what I want and what will be best.”