Top photo: Justin Jones smiles as he rounds the bases after his walk-off home run against Kane County earlier this season. (Steve Cirinna/Burlington Bees)
By John Bohnenkamp
The off day last Tuesday was the perfect day for Justin Jones to head down a lifetime path.
That was the day the Burlington Bees infielder asked his girlfriend, Amber Coy, to marry him.
The question was asked in the evening at Burlington’s Mosquito Park, overlooking the Mississippi River.
She said yes.
“It’s something we talked about for a long time,” Jones said. “It was really cool to take that next step.”
Jones and Coy had been together since high school in Georgia. He is in his second season with the Los Angeles Angels after signing as a free agent. She is a nursing student entering her final year at Georgia College and State University.
“It was just the timing of it,” Jones said. “It’s where my fiancée and I are at in our lives right now.”
Finding a place for the right moment, though, was a concern.
Jones played last season with the Angels’ Rookie League team in Orem, Utah. Plenty of scenic views there.
Finding something in the Midwest, in an area he had never been in before, took some work.
“I did (scout),” Jones said. “When I first arrived in Burlington. I was a little bit skeptical. I had been in Orem, it’s beautiful, you have the mountains. All I could find here at first was corn.”
He thought about the Field of Dreams in Dyersville, but that would require a bit of a drive.
“I thought that would have been super cool,” Jones said. “But the last thing I wanted to do to my now-fiancée and her mom was make them drive 2 ½ hours after the 13-hour drive (from Georgia).”
So, after asking some of the Bees’ host families and other people he met around town, Jones found the perfect spot.
The key was keeping it a secret. His parents and her parents were in on it.
Only a couple of teammates knew — Jones didn’t share the secret in the clubhouse.
“ I strategically didn’t tell them until after,” he said. “I didn’t want to hear it in the clubhouse too much. And I didn’t want to risk spoiling the surprise.”
Coy, her mom, and Jones’ parents were in Burlington to watch him play. The parents knew what was going on.
“There was (anticipation),” Jones said. “Definitely. It was something I had been planning for a while. I wanted it to be special, surprise her. It wasn’t easy.
“I did a couple of things to keep her on her toes. We went to (Crapo) park here to watch the sunrise that day. I tried to be like, ‘I don’t know if this is the right time,’ so she wasn’t super confident it was coming. We worked it out so it was just me and her in her car.”
Jones, Coy, and their families had dinner in downtown Burlington in the evening.
“Hit a few downtown spots, took some pictures,” Jones said. “The last one was the special one.
Bees team photographer Steve Cirinna was waiting for them at Mosquito Park. Jones said he wasn’t nervous while proposing, but the photos, he said, tell a different story.
“If you look at the pictures closely, my shirt is two different colors in a lot of places,” Jones said, smiling.
Jones then broke the good news to his teammates.
“I think they would have given me a harder time had I told them before,” he said. “A lot of congratulations from them, which I appreciated. A couple of them were like, ‘Man, I can’t believe you didn’t tell me.’ I had my reasons.”
Jones said a date for the wedding hasn’t been set.
“Not yet,” he said. “Baby steps.”
Jones is batting .237 with the Bees in his first full season in the minors. He’s hitting .343 in July, .364 in his last 10 games.
His biggest moment of the season has already happened.
“If you would have told me a few years ago that I would have been getting engaged in Burlington, Iowa, I would have said, ‘Where’s Burlington, Iowa?’” Jones said. “But it worked out well.”
Jordyn Adams (right) is congratulated by Bees manager Jack Howell after Sunday’s home run against Lake County. (Steve Cirinna/Burlington Bees)
BEYOND THE NUMBERS
Jordyn Adams paused for a second to watch his deep drive to left field in the fourth inning of Sunday’s 5-2 loss to Lake County. Then Adams put his head down and rounded the bases for his first home run since May 25.
Adams, the Angels’ first-round draft pick last season, has had up-and-down numbers in what will be his first full season.
But Bees manager Jack Howell said he doesn’t think about Adams’ statistics.
“I’ve never worried about Jordyn,” he said. “As I’ve told everyone, he can look like he’s struggling. And then when the game’s on the line, he comes up with a big hit.”
Howell pointed to Saturday’s 3-2 loss to Lake County, when Adams came up to lead off the 10th inning with Alvaro Rubalcaba at second base under Minor League Baseball’s extra-inning rule.
Adams pounded a ground ball up the middle that appeared to be headed into center field for a single that likely would have tied the game. Instead, Lake County’s Jose Fermin made a diving grab of the grounder and threw to first to get Adams.
“Early in the season, when he wasn’t hitting well, he still walked teams off,” Howell said. “And last night, he has his best at-bat with the game on the line. That, for me, is what I think is most impressive about him — really nut-up and have your best at-bats with the game on the line. He’s never really out of it.”
Adams, who is 19 years old, is batting .240 with five home runs and 25 runs batted in.
He struggled in April, hitting just .182, but batted .296 in May. He hit .240 in June and is hitting .244 in July.
“He’s fine. He’s young,” Howell said. “And this is going to be a very productive full season for him. Very productive, he’s really worked hard, we’ve worked with him. And we’ve tried not to beat him up. A kid like that is going to play 120-plus games in his first full season.
“He’s been smart. He’s been very good about sharing with me how he feels.”
Howell said the power numbers also aren’t a concern. He remembered when he was the minor league hitting coordinator with the Marlins in 2011, and worked with Christian Yelich, who was in Class A ball at the time. Yelich had 15 home runs that season. Yelich hit 20 home runs in his first four seasons in Major League Baseball, and now has hit 104 in his last four seasons.
“Back then, he wasn’t a 50-homer guy,” Howell said. “But you could see the power was there.”
Howell knows there is more to come with Adams this season.
“There are still four or five weeks left,” he said. “He’s still going to have a pretty darn good year, in my opinion.”
THE WEEK THAT WAS
Batting average: .235
Opponents’ batting average: .227
Opponents’ ERA: 3.29
Notes: Justin Jones batted .412 for the week. … Alvaro Rubalcaba batted .333.
THE WEEK AHEAD
• At Lansing (6:05 p.m. Wednesday-Friday) — The Bees take their final road trip against Eastern Division teams. Lansing is 45-47 overall, 13-10 in the second half. Pitcher Eric Pardinho is ranked the No. 4 prospect in the Toronto Blue Jays organization by MLB.com. Outfielder Griffin Conine, the son of former MLB player Jeff Conine, is ranked the No. 14 prospect.
• At Great Lakes (6:05 p.m. Saturday, 1:05 p.m. Sunday, 11:05 a.m. Monday) — The Loons (55-35, 12-11), an affiliate of the Los Angeles Dodgers, won the first-half Eastern Division title. Infielder Jacob Amaya is ranked the Dodgers’ No. 11 prospect.
Bees outfielder Nonie Williams is sixth in the Midwest League with 48 walks. … Outfielder Spencer Griffin is tied with two others for third in triples with 6. … Kyle Tyler is ninth in ERA at 3.14. … Hector Yan leads the league with 103 strikeouts. Robinson Pina is fifth with 94. … Opponents are batting .199 against Tyler, which ranks him third in the league. His 1.06 WHIP is fifth best. … Opponents are hitting .207 against Pina, which ranks him fifth.
• Kevin Arias (2019) had two hits and drove in five runs in Orem’s 6-2 win over Idaho Falls on Sunday. Matt Leon (2019) struck out seven in six innings.
• Matt Thaiss (2016) hit his first MLB home run on Sunday, a two-run shot that gave the Angels a 6-3 win over Seattle. Thaiss also made a diving stop on a ground ball in Friday’s game, saving a combined no-hitter.
• Jo Adell (2018) had two home runs for Double-A Mobile in Friday’s 5-3 win over Tennessee. Adell is batting .369 with a 1.105 OPS at Mobile.
• Brandon Marsh (2018) is batting .292 at Mobile.
• Oliver Ortega (2018) has allowed just 55 hits while striking out 103 in 81 innings at High-A Inland Empire.