11/22/2017 3:46 PM -
Whiting, Ind. – Nov. 22, 2017 – The man who has appeared in more seasons than any other player in the history of the Northwest Indiana Oilmen is set to author the next chapter of his baseball career – one that involves playing for a major league organization.
Zack Jones inked a contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks late last month and is poised to become the newest name on a growing list of former Oilmen to go on to play affiliated professional baseball.
“It’s exhilarating,” Jones said. “I was invited to the Arizona Diamondbacks workout on Sept. 30 and had a couple good at-bats. Bill Bryk, the special assistant to the GM, called me a couple weeks later. They let me know they had interest and it could happen.”
The right-handed hitting catcher is among the most recognizable and well-liked players in the six-year history of the Oilmen. He burst onto the MCL scene by playing in 30 games, hitting .253 and driving in 13 in 2014. He returned for the 2015 season much improved, batting .301 with 21 RBIs in 33 games.
Jones made a brief three-game appearance with the Oilmen in 2016, then returned for a final farewell, playing in four games early in the 2017 season while he awaited his fate in the 2017 MLB Draft. Jones went out in storybook fashion, hitting two home runs in his last game in an Oilmen uniform to lift NWI over rival DuPage County.
A few weeks after his initial conversation with Bryk, Jones’ phone rang again. Once again, Bryk was on the other end.
“I was sitting in the library at school studying for midterms and he said, ‘We’re going to sign you,’” Jones said. “I ended up getting kicked out of the library from yelling and screaming. I then received the welcome call from the organization, and eventually I signed.”
Jones will know his report date by January. The next stop on his baseball journey will be Driveline, where he will train for a month a half prior to reporting to Spring Training.
After finishing his senior season at Trinity Christian College and making his four-game cameo with the Oilmen, the Maine South High School graduate signed his first professional contract and played with the Windy City ThunderBolts of the independent Frontier League this past summer. He hit .250 and posted a .455 on-base percentage while homering twice and driving in five in 13 appearances.
“I was lucky enough to find a place close to home with the ThunderBolts and learn what it means to be a professional,” he said. “It’s so much different than college ball; there’s a different dynamic in the clubhouse. I had to understand how to be a professional and that I have a job to do now. It’s been a bumpy ride, but I had the most fun I’ve had in a while.”
The bumps along the way that Jones referenced came during the June MLB First-Year Player Draft, when he went into the week fully expecting to be selected on the draft’s final day.
“It was a wild summer to say the least,” he said. “The Phillies told me they were really interested and even called me the night before the draft. I texted the scout that had been talking to me late in the draft and he told me there was too much catching in the organization and it wasn’t it the cards.”
Jones batted .357 as a senior at Trinity Christian this past spring, while also nailing down five saves for the Trolls. He played for former Oilmen manager Justin Huisman (head coach) and current Oilmen manager Adam Enright (assistant coach). Jones transferred into Trinity Christian from Harper College as a sophomore after starting his collegiate career by attending three schools in three semesters.
The memories of spending summers with the Oilmen will always stick with Jones, who in turn made a lasting impact on the organization.
“Being able to play so close to home for that many summers was great for me and my family,” he said. “I loved playing for the Oilmen and I met a lot of good friends. Being around that stadium and being there every day were some of the best memories I’ve ever had on a baseball field. I wouldn’t change that for the world.”