Another baseball star is going to leave seven figures on the table to play for Virginia.
Right-handed pitcher Connor Jones (Chesapeake/Great Bridge) informed scouts on Thursday afternoon that he will honor his commitment to Virginia and will not sign a professional contract.
“Ever since I was a little kid, I never had a specific dream for baseball be it to play in college or play in the Major Leagues,” Jones said. “The only goal I set for myself was to try to become the best baseball player I could possibly be and not waste any talent. I feel this path will help me fulfill that dream the best.”
Jones has been projected as a first round pick in this June’s MLB Draft by ESPN.com at a slot that could see him earn around $2 million. Instead of going straight into professional baseball and lining his pockets, Jones has decided the best path for his career is first through the college ranks.
Jones actually came to the decision a couple of weeks ago but kept it to himself informing his family earlier this week. After throwing five scoreless innings on senior night on Tuesday allowing three hits and seven strikeouts, Jones sat down with head coach Brian O’Connor to talk about the draft.
After a few minutes of listening to O’Connor make his pitch on the benefits of coming to school, Jones stopped his future head coach and informed him of his decision.
“It was priceless and a moment I’ll definitely remember it for the rest of my life,” Jones said. “It was great to see his reaction because I think he was just as excited as I was.”
As has been reported on Wahoos247 over the course of the past year, Jones has always leaned towards coming to school. In recent months though, as his draft stock has started to soar into the first round, there were some fleeting moments of indecision.
He leaned on his family and coaches with the EvoShield Canes, the showcase program he plays for in the summer, for advice.
“I got a lot of great advice from my Canes coaches, my parents and everyone but it came down to a comfort level with coach O’Connor, coach (Karl) Kuhn and the UVa baseball family,” Jones said. “I felt incredibly comfortable with that and I couldn’t see myself playing anywhere else next year.”
Jones has put up remarkable numbers this year for Great Bridge High School sporting an 8-0 record as his team enters the playoffs next week. He did not give up an earned run all season in 43 innings pitched. He allowed one unearned run and 10 walks while striking out 62 in the regular season.
While nothing is assured, Jones believes that he will be able to step on campus in Charlottesville and make an impact from the moment he arrives.
“Obviously I want to go in there and make an immediate impact and I think I’m capable of that,” Jones said. “I really just want to go in there, work my hardest, and see where things fall into place. I don’t want to set a specific goal because I don’t want to limit myself. I’m going to work my tail off and try to put myself in a good spot to be successful.”
Jones, who routinely runs his fastball up to 93-94 miles per hour, is ranked as the No. 26 player in the country by Perfect Game. He’s ranked as the No. 1 player in Virginia in his signing class and is the seventh-ranked right-handed pitcher nationally.
Jones will visit this weekend for the Saturday and Sunday games against Duke with members of his extended family but he also had a few final words for Virginia fans of what to expect out of him for the next three to four years.
“I’m going to bring a lot of energy and going to give 100 percent,” Jones said. “That’s something that well always be there. I’m going to give the team my best shot to win. I’m going to go out there, try to get the job done. It’s going to be exciting and I can’t wait to get out there.”