The closest Larry Jones got to playing baseball was middle school, but he broke his arm before tryouts. That was the end of that.
Now he has two sons who could both be selected in the MLB draft in June — Taylor Jones as a senior first baseman from Gonzaga University and Jordan Jones as a senior pitcher at Kentwood High School who has signed a letter of intent with the University of Washington.
Larry never played baseball. But he has twice won gold gloves — amateur boxing’s Golden Gloves, not baseball’s award for fielding.
“They wanted to play baseball and basketball, so I read up on both sports because I had never played either one,” Larry Jones said. “I pitched to them, threw with them and I taught them how to pitch and coached them ever since they were little.
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“It was learn-as-you-go, and they seemed to have the knack and the talent for it.”
Taylor Jones won Class 4A state basketball and baseball titles at Kentwood, starting on the mound in the 4-1 victory over Puyallup in the 2012 championship game.
The younger Jones pitched in Pasco off that same mound a year later — starting as a freshman in a 1-0 loss to South Kitsap in the 4A state semifinals.
Three years later, Jordan Jones has only one other loss.
He’s 25-2 for his high school career and has not been the losing pitcher of record in his past 20 starts — not since a 3-1 loss to Thomas Jefferson his sophomore year.
“I didn’t know much about Jordan; I knew he was Taylor’s little brother,” Kentwood coach Mark Zender said. “You just cross your fingers and hope the bloodlines continued.
“At first we started him on JV, and we brought him up to play varsity against Mount Rainier. They had a good team and Jordan pitched a shutout (in a 6-0 win). I remember thinking, ‘Boy, Mount Rainier must not be that good.’”
Except Mount Rainier then averaged 9.6 runs per game over its ensuing eight-game win streak, including 11 runs in a rematch win over Kentwood.
“Then I was like, ‘OK, maybe Jordan is pretty good,’” Zender said.
If it weren’t for Randy Johnson, Ken Griffey Jr. and Alex Rodriguez, Taylor and Jordan might not even be baseball players.
They said they learned the game by watching baseball — a lot of it. They memorized each Mariners player and their position.
“My mom hated baseball, I think, to be honest,” Taylor Jones said. “I was a little kid, like 3 years old, and I had the whole Mariners lineup down. My grandparents thought it was adorable so they started buying me little Mariners uniforms.”
Larry Jones said he taught them based on YouTube videos or what he dissected from other pitchers.
Jordan’s favorite pitcher is Felix Hernandez. He modeled his twisting windup after The King.
“But we pretty much watch all MLB games. Whatever is on, we’ll be watching it,” Jordan said. “I started trying Felix’s windup when I was 12, but it was a very subtle turn. It just progressed over the years into what it is now.”
And that windup is part of what makes Jordan so special. That turn makes it difficult to read his pitches.
Zender recalled one player asking him how he could determine a fastball from a changeup. So he tried to use Jordan, a freshman at the time, as an example.
“I was telling him that it takes time and you got to see the ball before it comes out of the hand. Soon enough you start to see,” Zender said. “So we’re watching Jordan and he tells me, ‘Yeah, Coach, I’m still not getting it.
“I’m like, ‘Yeah … bad example.’ ”
Kentwood catcher Shane McGuire said he’s caught probably 80 percent of Jordan’s lifetime starts dating back to Little League. And before that, Taylor was caught by Reese McGuire, a first-round pick by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2013. So the two families have that whole pitching-catching thing down.
“Jordan was going up (to varsity), and Reese asked me what he was like,” Shane McGuire said. “I was like ‘You’ve caught Taylor before. He’s just like Taylor.’ Only I told him that (Jordan) was going to be better than Taylor. I told him he was going to be good. He is going to get drafted one day.”
Jordan gets royal treatment when he pitches these days. He always sits in his corner near the batting helmets when he walks off the mound and his teammates make sure to save it for him.
“Every time — he walks in, fists bumps everybody and sits in his spot,” said senior Ben Wadowski, a Saint Martin’s signee. “And then he’s quiet as anything. … He gets so serious, it’s unusually goofy and funny.”
Jordan said he has never pitched to Taylor. But Taylor one time pitched to Jordan when he was 10 and dad forced him into the batter’s box.
Taylor hit him.
“Never tried that again,” Jordan said.
The Jones brothers are competitive with each other, but Taylor never lost that often, aside from a few one-one-one basketball games. Jordan had played basketball until this year.
If Jordan were to pitch Taylor?
“I would throw low, inside fastballs,” Jordan said. “Then, once I get the two strikes on him, do the hard slider off the plate or drop it down in the dirt — hopefully get him to chase.”
“We always joke about that,” Taylor said. “Especially now that I’m more of a hitter now. He thinks he could strike me out, I think I could hit off him.”
They would prefer to be on the same team. Both have quiet, humble demeanors and said they are inseparable when together.
“He’s such a great player and brother. I absolutely love him,” Jordan said. “He really set the path for me and gave me that goal to just try to do either as good or better than him.”
“We’re like two peas in a pod,” Taylor said. “I can’t wait for breaks to hang out with him. We are pretty inseparable when we are around each other.”
They hope they’ll one day play on the same team — maybe for the Mariners?
“I know that would be grandma’s dream,” Taylor said.
Taylor was picked in the 35th round by the Chicago Cubs last year, but turned that down to return to Gonzaga for his senior year. He hopes he might be picked in the first 10 rounds this year.
Larry Jones said it would be special to see both his sons drafted.
“That’s something my dad always kind of talks about,” Taylor said. “I think it’s pretty awesome that could be a possibility.”
TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677