JOPLIN, Mo. -- Jeremy Jones limps to the third-base coaching box, then limps back to the dugout when the inning is over. He had arthroscopic knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus last Friday, but Building Champions had games to play in the Premier Baseball Junior Championship and this is his baby.
Jones, 31, founded the Building Champions program in the Kansas City metro area in 2003 after playing five years in the minor leagues, and not even knee surgery was going to keep him away for long. He missed the opening day of the Premier Baseball event on Wednesday, but joined the club on Thursday, whether his doctor thought it was a good idea or not.
"The doctor says I'm not a good patient," he remarked. "I actually shouldn't be on it, but I can't miss Joplin and these kids."
He might not be a good patient, but it looks like he's a good coach with a good team. Building Champions won its first give games in the tournament by a combined score of 42-6, winning 8-0, 8-0, 9-1, 8-4 and 9-1 with strong pitching, excellent defense, good hitting and a coach with a heavily-wrapped right leg.
"I'm kind of stumbling around a little bit," he acknowledged.
It's kind of ironic. Jones caught in high school, caught for two years at Mesa Community College, caught for one year at Arizona State and caught for five years in the minor leagues and stayed healthy. "I caught all those years and never had an injury," he said, "until I caught a 12-year-old."
It happened during a workout, when Jones was working with one of the young kids in his program.
Jones has six teams in the Building Champions program this year with an 18U club, a 17U club, two 15U teams and two 13U teams. When he started the program in 2003, he began with 10U and 12U teams and built from there.
"I started from ground zero, basically," he said.
His teams play in tournaments in June and July, scale back in August, then get busy again in the fall. He offers instruction during the winter at the Building Champions facility in Overland Park, Kan., then they get outside in the spring and begin the cycle again. "It's pretty much a year-round gig," he said.
His players practice for three hours on Tuesdays and Wednesdays in the summer, then typically head to a tournament for Thursday through Sunday. Jones has a wife and three young kids, so he's a busy guy.
Jones was drafted after his senior year in high school by Colorado in 1995, drafted again after his freshman year at Mesa Community College by Cleveland in 1996, and drafted again by Texas in the 27th round after his junior year at Arizona State in 1998 and finally signed. Arizona State reached the championship game of the 1998 College World Series when he was playing for the Sun Devils, but they lost a wild game to Southern Cal, 21-14.
"Balls got up in the air quite a bit in that game," he said.
Jones spent five years in the minor leagues with the Texas Rangers, reaching Double-A, before deciding to retire.
"I rode a few buses, I had a couple break down on us in the middle of nowhere, I had an air conditioner leaking on my head," he said. "Oh yeah, I could tell stories."
He was married and had one child when he retired from pro ball. He's kept hopping with his new venture with Building Champions, even if that means coaching with a sore knee. "I wouldn't miss it if I was in a wheelchair," he said before limping away.