I’m still geeking out over this James Jones kid, the Mariners’ fourth-round draft pick out of Long Island University who can throw a ball over the centerfield wall from home plate. I just got off the phone with Pete Lauritson, Jones’s manager at the Waterloo Bucks last summer, who witnessed the toss, and here’s his first-hand account. Seriously, if you like baseball, there’s no way you can read this and not smile.
"This was probably one of the top three most impressive things I’ve ever seen on a baseball field.
"Me and James played this game where we took three balls apiece, and we shot them into a bucket, and whoever got the best of three won the game. We played this the entire summer — there was a lot of downtime — and we were tied going into the last day. On the last day, he beat me, and when he made the game-winning shot, he started running up and down the third base line, yelling, ‘LIU! LIU! Blackbirds!’
"So he makes the game-winning shot, he’s running up and down the third base line, and he just takes a ball and throws it from the third base line over the right field fence. Him celebrating the way he did, it shows … he is one of the best characters I’ve ever seen. Anyway, me and another player, I think we’re the only two that saw it. And we looked at each other, and our mouths just dropped. We were just like, ‘Did that really just happen? Did anybody else see that?’ When we told everyone that he just threw the ball over the rightfield wall, they were like, ‘No way.’ So we’re like, ‘James, you have to throw the ball over the centerfield wall.’ So he grabs a ball, he goes behind the plate, and he didn’t take a running start, he didn’t do anything. He took one step and threw the ball over the centerfield wall.
"That wall is a good 18 feet tall. And it didn’t just bloop over the fence and scrape the back of the wall. It was still rising in the air when it cleared the fence. We had two players go out behind the fence to see where it landed. We estimated that he probably threw that ball 430 feet.
"It was pretty shocking. It takes serious arm strength to do that. I think there’s some other guys who can do that, but the only way you can is if you have the arm speed and the arm strength to throw in the mid-90s. We had an outfielder from Oregon State — keep in mind that Oregon State is a pretty good college baseball program — and he went up to home plate and tried it. He maybe threw the ball into the middle of the outfield — maybe 240 feet. Which is not bad at all. But it wasn’t even close to what James did."