Lake Norman & Mooresville

Spinners’ centerfield looking for opportunities

Mooresville Spinners center fielder Markel Jones connects with a pitch during the second inning of the Spinners’ Carolina-Virginia Collegiate League game against the Carolina Pirates.
Mooresville Spinners center fielder Markel Jones connects with a pitch during the second inning of the Spinners’ Carolina-Virginia Collegiate League game against the Carolina Pirates. BILL KISER

Markel Jones is having the kind of season most players dream of.

Jones has been among the league leaders in a dozen offensive categories – a big reason the Mooresville Spinners are contending for their second straight league title.

After practicing and playing for three college teams the past two years, Jones says he has to prove what he’s capable of.

“Ever since I left Raleigh, I’ve been working out and playing with a chip on my shoulder,” said Jones, the Spinners’ starting center fielder. “I’ve been coming out here every day, trying to get better.

“Hopefully, these numbers will spark something in somebody to offer me something.”

Jones leads the Spinners with a .342 batting average, good for a tie for eighth-best in the Carolina-Virginia Collegiate League among players with 20 or more games played through July 6.

But Jones, a native of Shallotte, N.C., on the coast near the North Carolina-South Carolina state line, leads the league in five categories: total at bats (117), hits (40), runs scored (40), home runs (six) and stolen bases (16).

Jones also is second in runs batted in (23), triples (four) and walks (24); fourth in slugging percentage (.642); tied for sixth in doubles (seven); and eighth in on-base percentage (.455).

“He’s what we call a ‘five-tool player,’” Spinners general manager Philip Loftin said. “He’s probably one of the few guys playing in the league who could get signed to play in the minor leagues.”

Jones was an all-state selection by both NCPreps.com and the N.C. High School Baseball Coaches Association his senior year at West Brunswick High, and shined during N.C. State’s fall workouts in 2013.

But Jones wound up transferring to Louisburg College, a junior college program, over the winter, for the spring of 2014 – the result of a meeting with the Wolfpack’s coaches.

“I did pretty well (during the fall workouts at N.C. State),” Jones said. “But they brought me into the office and hit me with the fact that I wasn’t going to get much playing time. That’s why I transferred to Louisburg.

“The plan was to play at Louisburg a year, then transfer back, but I guess (N.C. State) didn’t want me back.”

Jones wound up hitting .319 for the Hurricanes, fourth-best on the team. He was also second in doubles (13), bases (19) and slugging percentage (.481); third in on-base percentage (.399) fourth in hits (51), and fifth in RBIs (24) and home runs (three).

This past college season, Jones took a year off, although he did work out and practice with Brunswick Community College’s team. That led to the offer from the Spinners to play for them in the summer wood-bat college league.

That Jones has been able to put up the numbers he’s had with the Spinners has come as somewhat of a surprise.

“I worked out and kept my strength up, but it’s not the same as playing games,” Jones said. “But what I’ve done has surprised me. I really like hitting with wood (bats) – I wish we could use wood bats in college.

“But taking that year off and coming out here and doing this well, I didn’t expect it. I’ve just been taking it one at bat at a time, and just swinging the bat.”

After wrapping up the season with the Spinners, Jones will return to Brunswick Community College to complete course work, and plans on playing with the Dolphins’ baseball team in 2016.

That is, unless another college program makes Jones an offer. He will have at least three years of eligibility remaining with a Division I program.

“I don’t care if it’s a big D-I or a small D-I,” Jones said. “I just want to go somewhere where I can get the opportunity to be an everyday guy, no matter what position.”

Bill Kiser is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Bill? Email him at bkisercltobs@gmail.com.

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