Carroll High School’s Hayden Jones named 2018 News-Sentinel Baseball Player of the Year

Hayden Jones of Carroll High School behind the plate. (Photo courtesy Carroll Baseball/Ryan Schwab)
Hayden Jones portrait. (Photo courtesy Carroll Baseball/Leverage Photography/Judd Johnson)

The last four years, Hayden Jones donned his gear and slid behind home plate as catcher for the Carroll High School baseball team. It was a comfortable spot.

Jones called pitches, calmed pitchers, threw out would-be base stealers and, when the inning broke, took his turn at bat, rapping out line drives and homers.

He’s about to become a little uncomfortable, and this is a good thing.

Jones, the 2018 News-Sentinel Baseball Player of the Year, heads to Mississippi State University on Monday as he begins his college career playing for one of the top programs in the country.

He’ll be auditioning, in a sense, for his next run.

“The biggest thing for me will be growing with them, and learning from the best coaches in the country,” Jones said.

In a major change, Jones will enter Mississippi State to play for a coach who didn’t recruit him. Former Indiana University coach Chris Lemonis was hired this week to take over at Mississippi State.

“I didn’t get to know him too much from the recruiting side since (IU) wasn’t a school that was really on me,” Jones said. “They already had another kid committed in my class. From what I’ve heard from others, and players he has coached in the past, all I’ve heard is good things.”

Jones received a call after the coaching hire from Mississippi State assistant coach Jake Gautreau, who will remain on the staff.

“He called me just to let me know and reassure me where I fit in there,” Jones said. “He wanted to let me know where they see me coming in and everything they have in store, and everything is still there for me.”

Jones had no second thoughts. He loves the school and its baseball tradition and is eager to get moving on to his next stage. He’ll spend two weeks at Mississippi State, return for the North-South All-Star series in South Bend and then head back to Mississippi State again.

Jones followed in the baseball footsteps of his father Ken Jones and grandfather Bill Jones in a pure love of baseball.

He leaves behind a record of excellence at Carroll.

“He’ll be missed, that’s for sure,” Carroll coach Dave Ginder said. “He’s not easily replaced with what he did defensively. We looked to him back there as a leader at catcher, and he was a standout that way. He was also a big part offensively.”

Jones hit .505 with 10 home runs, nine doubles, three triples, 33 runs batted in and 22 stolen bases his season in helping Carroll to a sectional championship and a trip to the regional final, where the Chargers lost a nine-inning game to Fishers.

“Having such a young team, I think what we were able to do was really impressive,” Jones said. “We did all we could and laid it on the line.”

Some people were surprised when Jones went undrafted in the Major League Baseball draft. But his family had made it known that he was going to pursue college unless he was drafted by a team willing to pay first- or high second-round money. That likely caused teams to shy away from him in later rounds. Jones said he was reassured by a former local scout that pursuing college – with a possible better draft position in the future – was the right decision.

“He’s in a good spot,” Ginder said. “It was kind of a win-win situation. If he went high enough and the money was right, he could turn pro. But to be able to go to Mississippi State and the SEC (Southeastern Conference), that’s second to none. I’m excited to see what happens for him there.”

Ginder points to Jones’ nature as a team-first player as one of his best attributes.

He also continued to work year-round on improving his skills throughout high school to maximize his potential.

“He just worked his tail off to become a better baseball player in all aspects,” Ginder said. “He was always very talented and gifted with God-given talent, but he also worked his tail off to put himself in this position. He’s very self-motivated.”

2018 News-Sentinel All Area

Isaac Bair, Homestead

Grant Besser, South Adams

Alec Brunson, DeKalb

Tanner Clark, Columbia City

Angel DiFederico, New Haven

Eric Doyle, Bishop Dwenger

Langston Ginder, Carroll

Hayden Jones, Carroll

Ian McCutcheon, Huntington North

Justin Miller, Homestead

Eddie Morris, Bishop Dwenger

Treyvin Moss, Concordia Lutheran

Riley Perlich, Carroll

Thomas Romero, South Side

Chris Scheid, New Haven

Gaven Schreiber, Northrop

Tyler Sonner, Angola

Cole Stigleman, Jay County

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