Outfielder/first baseman is hitting .444 with five home runs and 23 RBI in 20 games for the tournament-bound Eagles.
FEDERAL WAY — Christian Jones likes simple things.
He’s never eaten a hamburger or a hot dog because there’s “too much going on” between the buns.
The Federal Way senior baseball player is sharp, smart, self aware. He’s got a 3.9 GPA and bats lefty, although he’s otherwise right-handed.
“Left side is where the money’s at,” Jones said with a laugh before a game last week.
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He’s also a people pleaser. Jones, a Husky recruit who’s hitting .444 with 23 runs batted in and five home runs, often takes batting practice for 30 minutes after games at the request of major-league scouts. There’s at least eight or 10 watching him, breaking down his smooth-looking swing.
“He’s a fantastic talent and has effortless power,” said Federal Way hitting coach Ron Sherwin, a former associate MLB scout who did work for the Toronto Blue Jays and St. Louis Cardinals (he scouted big-time prospect Reese McGuire in 2013). “They just want to watch him hit more.”
It’s not that the power doesn’t show up in games — Jones has nine extra-base hits and a 1.174 slugging average — but the first baseman/outfielder doesn’t try to show it off every at-bat.
“If coach needs me to bunt, I bunt. If he needs me to fly out, I fly out. If I need to steal bases, I’ll be out there sliding,” said Jones, who is 6 feet 2, 220 pounds and has a wide, toothy smile and a crushing handshake.
“It’s not always about power.”
But oh, it is. And it’s likely to be his ticket to the pros, whether that’s this June in the MLB draft or after he’s spent some time playing for UW.
“Christian is a game-changer,” said UW coach Lindsay Meggs. “When he steps in the batter’s box, everything comes to a screeching halt. If you don’t enjoy watching him swing the bat, then you don’t understand the game.”
Jones, ranked as the No. 78 high-school prospect by Baseball America and first in the state of Washington, has spoken to all 30 major-league teams about the upcoming draft.
But they just told him to “keep plugging away” his senior year.
Which is what he’s been doing. Federal Way is 17-3 and 13-0 in the SPSL 4A Northwest. The Eagles play in the first round of the playoffs May 10.
Federal Way coach Arlo Evasick, in his first year, thinks Jones can take the Eagles far.
“There’s a confidence about him when he goes up to the plate,” said Evasick, who played college baseball at Seattle University and Chimacum High School.
“You feel the whole presence, everyone’s a little bit more attentive. It’s not that he’s always going to get a home run but he’s going to put the ball in play or get on base. And he’s hitting behind Ben Koler, who’s got a .650 on-base percentage, so something is bound to happen when (Christian) is up there.”
Jones says his success didn’t happen overnight — he was adamant in relaying that statement. He’s been working toward being a standout for a long time.
He started playing baseball at 3 years old when his dad, Derek, would take him to Kent-Meridian High School and have him hit off a tee. But dad wouldn’t shag the balls.
“I had to chase them down then run back and hit off the tee right away,” said Jones, now thankful for it. “It felt like all I was doing was running.”
He’s competed in sports his entire life — swimming, track and field, basketball (he won two state titles as a member of Federal Way’s team the past two seasons), and also uses Olympic weightlifting to build more power. During the Eagles’ run to a perfect basketball season, he was still working on his swing.
Most days, he would get home at 10 p.m. “And I would still get my school work done,” he adds. And also watch video of Robinson Cano, Barry Bonds or Miguel Cabrera.
In baseball, he finally saw all his hard work pay off when he was named to the Under Armour All-American Team in the summer of 2015.
“That was the turning point,” he said.
That’s when his confidence grew.
“My job is to score runs,” he says now, unwavering.
But he also knows he has more work to do.
“It’s more motivation to me, the challenge to always get better,” said Jones, whose Twitter handle is “KingJonesIV.”
“Kings always have to be on top.”