By John Bohnenkamp
Jackson Jones wasn’t happy with his 2021 season at Young Harris College in Georgia.
Jones batted .281 with nine home runs, but with some time off before coming to play in the Prospect League with the Burlington Bees, Jones went home to work on hitting with his father, George.
The work has paid off.
Jones, coming off a 4-for-5 game in Sunday’s 13-5 win over Quincy at Community Field, is batting .357 with seven home runs and 22 runs batted in. He has hit in 11 of his last 12 games, batting .449 over that stretch.
“I had a few weeks off to work on my swing a little bit,” Jones said. “Working on that helped me get into a groove. I’m seeing the ball a lot better and I think that’s the big thing.”
Jones is second in the league in home runs with seven, leads the league with nine doubles, and is fifth in slugging percentage at .714. He has a 1.147 OPS.
“He’s just a really, really good hitter,” Bees manager Gary McClure said. “He just stays within all of the time. He’s always got a plan, got a great swing. He’s just a very mature hitter — he gets good pitches to hit and he puts good swings on them.”
Jones didn’t have a place to play this summer before his coach, Stephen Waggener, told him about Burlington and the Prospect League.
“He said this was a good opportunity to play,” said Jones, who hit .209 with the Macon Bacon in the Coastal Plain League in 2018. “I was happy to jump at the chance to do it.
“It’s a lot of fun. It’s always a good time getting to know new guys. Baseball teams are always like another family. When you get to know another group of guys like this, it’s kind of like having a second family.”
Jones, a Marietta, Georgia native, started slowly, with just one hit in his first 10 at-bats. Since then, he has hits in 16 of his last 18 games.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Jones said. “There’s a lot of pressure sometimes, because you want it to continue, and obviously last night that didn’t happen. But it’s a good feeling being able to help your team. When you’re hot like that, you’re helping your team. It’s a lot of fun, but there’s a lot of pressure, you feel like you have to perform.”
Jones went 0-for-4 in Saturday’s 3-0 loss to the O’Fallon Hoots at Community Field, snapping a 10-game hitting streak.
He bounced back on Sunday, with two doubles, a home run and five RBIs.
The work in May, after the end of the college season, has helped.
“Whenever I’m not at school, I go hit with my dad,” Jones said. “He helps me out a lot. Pretty much everything I know about baseball I learned from him. He’s been my coach ever since I started playing. Whenever I get the chance to work with him, I do it. He’s helped me out a lot.”
Jones’ primary position is catcher, but he has also played left field, right field, and first base for the Bees.
He smiled when he was reminded that he pitched 5 1/3 innings as a freshman at Young Harris.
“That was interesting,” Jones said.
Jones appreciates getting a chance to play in Burlington.
“The facility here is amazing,” he said. “It’s definitely one of the nicest facilities I’ve been able to play in. It was definitely an attraction to playing here.”
Jones has one season left at Young Harris.
“I really just hope I can have success here, and then have that carry over into the college season,” Jones said. “I didn’t have as much success as I wanted to this year, so I’m hoping the success can carry over.”
THE WEEK AHEAD
Tuesday: At Quincy. The Bees face the Gems on the road after Sunday’s win. Quincy has won seven of its last 10 games, and is only 1 1/2 games behind the Bees and Normal in the Great River Division standings.
Wednesday-Thursday: Cape. The Bees return home for a two-game series against the Cape Catfish. The Catfish have won seven of their last 10 games and are 2 1/2 games out in the Prairie Land Division standings.
Friday: Springfield. The Bees see the Sliders for the second time this season. Springfield is a half-game out of first place in the Prairie Land Division.
Saturday-Sunday: At Cape. The Bees close the week with a two-game series on the road with the Catfish.
Photo: Jackson Jones rounds the bases after his home run against Clinton earlier this season. (Steve Cirinna/Burlington Bees)