Jones' first Opening Day remains a special memory
White Sox reliever looks back on the excitement surrounding his 2012 debut
These are Nate Jones' words about his Opening Day memories from 2012 in Texas, and the memories immediately leading up to that moment, as told to MLB.com White Sox beat writer Scott Merkin.
CHICAGO -- The first thing that caught me by surprise was I made it farther than the second cut during Spring Training, which was how far I made it the year before. But it still didn't really hit me then, until the final cut.
I was sitting there and had no expectations of breaking with the team. I thought I was going to Triple-A. But I happened to put together a good spring. I remember that day, I'm like, 'Wait. What did Robin [Ventura] say?'
Robin said something like, 'It looks like you won't get that day off going to the Minor League side.' That didn't register with me. I was sitting there like, 'What does that mean?' He said, 'Well because you made the team.' I was like, 'Holy [cow]!'
It took me by surprise and everything started to hit me. It was an exciting time. The first person I called, obviously, was my wife [Lacy]. I told her and she started hollering. She's at work at the local pharmacy in town, and the next person I called was my dad. He couldn't believe it either.
He's hooting and hollering as well. I didn't get a chance to call my mom because we were going out for stretch right afterwards. But everybody was pretty excited.
Then there was the scramble afterwards. Everything set in, and you are like, 'Holy [cow], I made the team,' and it was like, let's get to work and set up, so when I get to Chicago, I can enjoy it and have a place to stay and focus on baseball. It was kind of a blur.
When I first walked into [Rangers Ballpark in Arlington], I thought, 'I'm finally in a big league tunnel.' The only stadium I had ever been to was the Reds' stadium, Great American Ball Park, and that was only twice.
Going to a Major League game was a treat for us. We didn't get to do it that often. But I walked into the tunnel, and I was taking it all in.
I'm still taking it all in. I would have never gone to these cities I've traveled to and the places we've gone if not for being on the team. Every road trip, I never fall asleep, my eyes are wide open taking it all in: that's how it was walking in that tunnel, and walking into the locker room. Seeing your jersey hanging up, you are like, 'Wow!'
You got [Adam] Dunn, who played on the Reds, who you looked up to and watched him in high school. You see Paulie [Konerko], the King, his jersey hanging and yours is not too far away. It sets in a little bit.
We opened up with the Rangers Ballpark, and they packed the house. It was Robin's first game. I remember it was Friday, Saturday and Sunday and Sunday was ESPN Sunday night and the cool thing was everybody back home had an opportunity to watch it as well.
My wife, my best buddy and my agent were the ones that showed up. My parents couldn't make it out. But everybody got to watch it back home on TV.
A funny thing I remember about Opening Day was just the sheer amount of people that were there. I did not realize that many people went to ballgames. That was a pretty cool experience.
My first outing was that Sunday night game [April 8, 2012], and it happened to be in the seventh, the bottom of the seventh, because they did God Bless America and I got caught in the middle out in the outfield jogging out. So, I spent the whole song looking around like, holy smokes, taking it all in out there. I was all by myself. I felt like a little person out there.
I mean, just to hear your name called [on Opening Day], it was pure excitement. You work so hard for this and then it's happening. It felt like I accomplished my goal. I was here and now I had to fight to stay here. It's still the same feeling.
If you start to get comfortable or whatever, I think bad things start happening. I always work hard for where I'm at. I know people are trying to take my job so I'm not going to let them try to take it. It keeps the drive going, the motivation going.
Opening Day hasn't changed for me.
You work so hard to get to that point and it's still exciting.
We are just as excited as the fans here for the game. We don't get to scream and shout and everything like they do. The feeling is still the same.
Jones is a 28-year-old right-handed reliever, who was a fifth-round pick in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft, and in his third season with the White Sox. He is a married father of a daughter, Lilly, and a native of Butler, Ky.