Great American patriots have come in all shapes, sizes, races, sexes, religions, ethnicities, occupations and eras.
Thomas Paine wrote the pamphlets that inspired the rebels to the American Revolution. He was a great patriot. Clara Barton risked her life to bring supplies and support to soldiers in the field during the Civil War and founded the American Red Cross. She was a great patriot. Audie Murphy was one of the most decorated combat soldiers of World War II. He was a great patriot. Tom Brady has won five Super Bowls. He’s a great Patriot.
Adam Jones might not be a founding father, soldier, suffragist, frontiersman, pioneer, inventor, statesman, astronaut, New England quarterback, etc. But what he did on March 18, 2017, at San Diego’s sold-out Petco Park, will forever be remembered as an incredible act of baseball patriotism.
In a winner-take-all World Baseball Classic tilt against the defending champion Dominican Republic, with Team USA clinging to a late lead and desperate to advance to the tournament’s semifinals, Jones tracked Orioles teammate Manny Machado‘s deep fly ball, leapt into the wall, and created a Rockwellian image in the outfield — a lasting memory for all who witnessed it.
One year later, here’s the story of Jones’ instant Classic catch, as told by those who lived it.
Tyler Clippard, U.S. relief pitcher: Going into the tournament, Team USA hadn’t won, hadn’t done well traditionally in the WBC since it originated back in ’06. So there was some pressure for us to come in there and play well.
Andrew McCutchen, U.S. right fielder: It’s intense. You put on that uniform and the game starts, you’re representing what’s on your chest. Everything else is out the door.
Clippard: As baseball players, we don’t have the Olympics. So the WBC is kind of our Olympics. We played the Dominican in the first round, and it was the loudest I’ve ever heard a stadium in my life.
Paul Goldschmidt, U.S. first baseman: That game in Miami was absolutely nuts, with all their fans down there. I have never been anywhere close to an atmosphere like that. We played them Saturday night. We were up, 5-0, and they came back and beat us, 7-5. So that was a disappointing loss. Then the next game against Canada, we were able to advance. So it was fun getting a chance to face that [D.R.] team again.
Eric Hosmer, U.S. first baseman: No disrespect to any of the other teams, but it kind of felt like [the U.S. and the D.R.] were the two favorites going at it. The first matchup pretty much lived up to all the hype, and we knew the second one was going to be a great one.
It was 2-2 in the fourth, when Giancarlo Stanton hit a two-run home run off Ervin Santana that Statcast™ tracked at 117.3 mph and traveled to the second level of the Western Metal Supply Co. to give the U.S. the lead.
Video: Jones on robbing Machado in World Baseball Classic
Hosmer: Those World Baseball Classic games are playoff atmospheres. Every big play is a momentum change.
Down 4-2, the D.R. team had several opportunities to shift the momentum. The Dominicans put two runners in scoring position in the fifth, but Pat Neshek worked his way out of the jam. They had a runner on second with one out in the sixth, but Clippard got Welington Castillo to fly out and Jose Reyes to strike out. So the U.S. maintained that two-run edge going into the bottom of the seventh, when Machado led off against Clippard.
Clippard: I fell behind, and then the 2-1 pitch, I was trying to locate a fastball down and away. It was a little bit elevated and kind of rode back over the plate a little bit, and he barreled it up. The ballpark in San Diego is a pretty big park, so I wasn’t sure off the bat, whether or not it was a home run or not.
Ian Kinsler, U.S. second baseman: I was thinking the worst because the momentum was kind of in their favor at that time. They kept creeping closer to us, and then obviously that ball going over the fence to make it a 4-3 game would have changed the dynamic.
Video: Kinsler remembers Jones’ spectacular Classic catch
McCutchen: He crushed it.
Sam Dyson, U.S. reliever: San Diego, it’s kind of difficult to actually see what’s going on once you get past center field. When you’re in right-center, it’s kind of like, “Home run? Not a home run?”
Danny Duffy, U.S. starter: I was in the training room. Giancarlo was DH-ing that day and we were watching it on TV. I was doing my five-pound weights, lifting them over my head, and the ball was hit and we thought it was way gone.
Clippard: As a pitcher, once the ball leaves the bat, you’re just a spectator at that point. So I was kind of in awe just like everybody else in the baseball world at what took place next.
McCutchen: I see Jones going back and just not giving up on it.
Kinsler: From my point of view, I thought it was gone, and then Adam came out of nowhere.
Hosmer: I just saw Jonesey jump, and you’re waiting to see if he puts his glove up in the air. Then you see his reaction.
Clippard: It really looked like, to me, Adam just kind of brought the ball out of nowhere. It looked like it disappeared into the fans. Then he brought his glove back and he had it in his glove. It was like a magician.
Duffy: I dropped my weights on the floor.
Video: Clippard reflects on Jones’ heroic WBC catch
Machado: I didn’t even know [Jones] had hops like that [laughs].
Jones: [laughs, rubs his hands together]
McCutchen: It was a thing of beauty to see how everything slowed down. That’s what Gold Glove outfielders are able to do.
Clippard: Surprise, shock and happiness, all rolled into one.
Adrian Beltre, D.R. designated hitter: Disbelief. Shock. That play was pretty surreal.
Goldschmidt: The still-frame picture is awesome.
Christian Yelich, U.S. left fielder: My buddy’s girlfriend is actually in the background of that picture [she’s the blonde over Jones’ right shoulder].
Duffy: Best catch I’ve ever seen.
Jones: I think the best catch I ever made was in Seattle against Miguel Olivo. Straight over my head. Degree of difficulty, timing. But the situation [against the D.R.], obviously it was a bigger thing.
Video: Must C Catch: Jones makes a spectacular grab
Machado: It sucks at the moment, yeah. But looking back at it, seeing it second by second, him running back from center field where he was playing to see him jump and go back there and make that catch, it was something else.
Jones: I saw [Machado] tip his cap, and I tipped my cap back to him. Mutual respect with teammates.
Hosmer: You have Adam Jones, making that catch on Manny Machado. It’s two teammates, but they’re also both representing their countries. It showed how intense it was.
Jones: To be honest with you, it probably would have been better if it was an AL East rival. The emotions would have been all, “Yeah!” But I’m going against my teammate, and it’s like, “Damn.” But you can’t decide who hits the ball.
Machado: I was glad it was him. … Rather him than someone else.
Video: Cutch, Dyson remember Jones’ spectacular WBC catch
Jones: The biggest thing was the situation. Teammate on teammate, if you want to spin it that way, but I think the situation. The Dominican and United States, both teams were powerhouses. And I think that play was big.
Machado: It was a hell of a play. It was in a key situation. It was a big part of the game, a big part of the reason why they advanced and won the World Baseball Classic that year. But it’s nothing new; he’s done it quite a bit. That’s why he was the center fielder for the United States of America, because he goes out there and is supposed to make those plays.
Goldschmidt: Jonesy was definitely one of the leaders on that team. He had been there before and hit in the middle of that order and played center field. So guys definitely looked to him as how we’re going to play, and he really stepped up, especially in that moment.
Video: Yelich discusses Jones making great catch at Classic
Nelson Cruz, D.R. right fielder: He went crazy out there celebrating. They all did. That’s what the WBC was about, having fun and celebrating.
Andrew Miller, U.S. reliever: In a tournament with a lot of explosive plays, that was right at the top. When you’re in a group just thrown together and getting to know each other, something like that brings everybody together.
McCutchen: You see him jump up, makes this crazy catch, and then gets the ball in. He didn’t just stop, make that catch and that was it. He caught it, got the ball in, and we celebrated after that.
Video: Arenado recalls Jones’ sensational WBC catch
Jones: It’s finishing the play. Myself, Manny, we make great plays all the time and then we move on. Because the next play is going to happen [snaps his finger]. Baseball is the next play … think about it. What happened with the next hitter after that?
Robinson Cano went deep to left to cut the U.S. lead to 4-3.
Jones: With Manny’s home run, it’s 4-3 and then 4-4.
Clippard: That ended up being a huge play. And thankfully it all worked out.
Yelich: I actually had a chance to rob [Cano’s homer]. I ran just like straight into the wall and it dropped into the first or second row. Nobody remembers that. They just remember the sick catch that Jones made. … Cano hit the next one, and I got turned around. All I really would have had to do was time the leap, and we would have had back-to-back [home-run-robbing catches]. I think the stadium might have come down at that point.
Video: USA@DOM: Cano cuts deficit down with solo homer
Hosmer: After a catch like that, the energy and the excitement in the dugout is there. You kind of had a feeling that something was going to happen offensively and something was going to happen in your favor.
In the eighth, a two-run double from McCutchen effectively put the game on ice. The U.S. won, 6-3, to advance to the semifinals at Dodger Stadium. After defeating Japan, 2-1, the U.S. beat Puerto Rico, 8-0, in the finals for the Americans’ first World Baseball Classic championship.
Machado: They moved on to make it to the next series and bring the gold to the U.S. I think that’s the bigger picture of the catch.
Video: USA wins the 2017 World Baseball Classic
Goldschmidt: The whole process, playing with that team was amazing. But that game stuck out. I’ve thought about, maybe when we play the AL East next year, getting like an 8×12 [signed] with Stanton’s homer and Jones’ catch. Because those two moments, especially in that game … that’s never going to happen again.
Jones: [shrugs] We make nice plays, and then we get ready for the next one. It’s boring, I guess, but that’s how I see it.
A modest take on a spectacular catch. But as Charles E. Jefferson wrote in “Ethical Aspects of Conscription and the War” in 1917 (100 years before Jones’ catch), “Patriotism is like religion — it is best when least ostentatious.”
Anthony Castrovince has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2004. Read his columns, listen to his podcasts and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince. MLB.com reporters Brittany Ghiroli, Gregor Chisholm, Alyson Footer, AJ Cassavell, Maria Guardado, T.R. Sullivan, Adam McCalvy, Jesse Sanchez and Jeffrey Flanagan contributed to this story.
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