Lance Jones spent part of the 2016 and 2017 seasons with the Vancouver Canadians.
It’s not often a player calls it quits after hitting over .400 during the season but that was the case for outfielder Lance Jones after word of his retirement surfaced in the Northwest League transactions column. The 24 year-old outfielder spent three seasons in professional baseball, the latter two of which saw him spend time in Vancouver.
Jones was a 36th round pick in 2015 by the Toronto Blue Jays out of Southern University. The right-handed hitter lettered in his two seasons with the Jaguars after compiling on-base percentages of .844 and .834 after transferring from Bossier Parish Community College where he posted an OPS of .847.
Jones reported to the Gulf Coast League to launch his pro career and entered the game as a pinch-hitter against the Pirates June 23 for 2015 C’s first baseman Connor Panas and struck out. The game went into extra innings so that allowed Jones to get more at-bats under his belt. He walked in his second plate appearance before doubling in his fourth in the 15th inning for his first pro hit. Jones would later score the winning run on a fielder’s choice by 2017 C’s infielder Jesus Severino.
Jones would rattle off four straight multi-hit games in a row that included a 4-for-5 effort against the Braves June 27 that included two runs batted in and a stolen base. His first home run came against the Yankees July 10 and he had a five-game hit streak that began July 23. His batting average was above .300 until the last four games of the year and finished one point shy with a .299/.446/.402 batting line while stealing six bases in eight attempts.
Jones made the jump to Vancouver to start 2016 and went 3-for-6 in his debut against Spokane June 19. He had a four-game hitting streak in June but he was hitting just .233/.324/.333 for the month. The Shreveport, Louisiana native had a 3-for-4 day against Salem-Keizer July 6 but saw his batting average drop to .197 in mid-July. He would end his first tour of duty in YVR with a flourish by going 7-for-13 in his last three games to boost his line to .247/.356/.329 but he was sent down to Bluefield to help the Blue Jays in their playoff chase.
If Jones took the demotion hard, it didn’t show in his first game in the Appalachian League as he went 3-for-4 with a home run, a double and a single against Burlington July 23 before following that up with three stolen bases the next night. He had a career-high seven-game hitting streak in August and hits in eight of his last nine to end the year with the Bluef-Jays by slashing .325/.486/.429.
The 2017 season saw Jones begin again in Vancouver. Switching from #9 to #1 on the team program, he started with a bang with a pair of two-hit games in Eugene June 15 and June 16. He had five hits in six at-bats along with one walk and one hit by pitch in those two contests. After going hitless in the next two games, Jones went 1-for-4 with two RBI in the C’s home opening victory against Everett June 20. He brought in the team’s first run that game with a sacrifice fly and singled home another as part of a six-run sixth inning.
Jones would drive home Vancouver’s first run June 21 in another win over Everett with a double and scored the second after a bunt single and a stolen base. That was part of a 3-for-5 night at the plate in which he scored three times. His last game was the next day as he prevented the C’s from being shutout by driving home Reggie Pruitt with a single in the ninth inning as part of a two-hit, one-walk performance. Jones was pinch-run for by Brock Lundquist after his base hit and that turned out to be the final act of his career.
With the arrival of Lundquist and Brandon Polizzi in the outfield, Jones was caught in the numbers game. Despite a .423/.467/.500 line over eight games, the writing was on the wall for Jones and he decided to leave pro baseball.
Despite the disappointing end, Jones can hold his head up high as he did what he could to keep his dream alive. All the best to him in his future endeavours.