Only a year into his professional baseball career, Markel Jones is already making great strides both in the outfield and at the plate. Both on and off the field, Markel always has a positive attitude and a smile on his face, happy to be playing the game he loves. As we near the end of the regular season, I checked in with Markel to see how his second year of professional baseball is going thus far.
How did you pick your walk-up song (Whitney Houston's "I Wanna Dance with Somebody")?
Even though I listen to a lot of rap, Whitney Houston is one of my favorite artists. In my free time, I like to sing (although never publicly) and I always enjoy singing her songs. Most players pick a walk-up song to pump them up before they get to the plate but I'm a chill guy so I just picked something I thought would be fun and unique.
Do you have any pre at-bat rituals?
For the past four or five years, before I get in the box, I write my grandmother's initials with the knob of my bat and then I wipe it away. She passed away a few years ago and this is one of the ways I like to remember her.
Any pregame meals?
My go-to's are green tea and Reese's cups, my favorite chocolate.
What got you into baseball?
I started playing ball when I was four years old. At the time, I also played basketball and football but ended up dropping those later because baseball has always been my true passion. I've never missed a season between spring, summer, and fall. I love chasing down balls in the outfield and I never doubted this sport is what I want to do for the rest of my life.
Are there any ballpark promotions you particularly like partaking in as a player?
Military Appreciation Night is my favorite. Military men and women are doing something that takes a lot of heart, sacrifice, and risk. They get all my respect and glory, and I can't thank them enough.
What was it like getting drafted?
It is VERY stressful. Players usually get a call beforehand saying they are expected to be drafted but the time until you actually hear your name, for me at least, were some of the most nerve-racking moments of my life. Once I got officially got the call from the Orioles, it was a huge weight off my shoulders and a dream come true.
Who is your biggest fan?
My mom. She's been there for me every season and every step of the way.
What was your favorite baseball team growing up? Are there any players in the big leagues that you try to emulate?
Hopefully, O's fans won't be mad at me for this one but the Red Sox have always been my favorite team. Especially because as I was growing up, I loved watching David Ortiz play.
There are so many great players in the majors but my two favorites to follow suit are Adam Jones and Mookie Betts. I enjoy watching Jones' skill in the outfield and try to mirror them in the way I play. Mookie Betts and I have a similar body type so watching him play helps me improve my own game as well.
What's your favorite baseball memory from your own career?
I've got a few so bear with me. When I was ten years old, I was playing ball a couple levels above my age group and in one game, a ball got by the catcher. Someone shouted "eat it!" which in the baseball world means "don't throw," so I looked away for a quick second and the next thing I know I was being nailed in the face with the ball. That day was one I'll always remember and in case I forget, I am missing a tooth as a reminder.
In terms of less 'painful' memories, my last year playing in college, I hit three consecutive home runs-it was one of my best games ever. That, and in an all-star game once, I hit a walk-off grand slam.
What is your favorite part about playing for the O's organization?
To be a little selfish, I look good in the team colors (orange and black) so I have that working for me. In all seriousness though, the organization is going down the right path with a lot of good things coming its way. I am excited to be a part of that.
Any words of advice to younger players looking to play professionally?
Don't stop working. Whatever you are doing, work harder and work smarter. It's okay to have doubts every once and a while but don't let your mind take over your heart. If your dream is to play professional baseball, keep working hard and it can happen. All it takes is for one person to see you and hey, you never know, it could be your name being called in a future MLB draft.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.