Casey Jones hits. That’s what he does, and that’s what he’s good at. He hit a whopping .418 last season en route to Southern Conference Player of the Year honors.
So when the Elon University senior trotted out to the mound during the baseball team’s Fall World Series, it prompted some double takes.
“I told Coach [Mike Kennedy] I could do it if we need guys to do it,” Jones said. “We’re a little bit lower with pitchers on our staff this year. He gave me the fall to do it, and I just went for it.”
Jones is one of multiple players who are experimenting with playing a different position this fall as the Phoenix preps for its season, which begins mid-February.
Last year, Jones played mostly at first base and in left field but also saw time at third base and second base. He said he hadn’t pitched since his junior year of high school, but he came in and struck out two batters in 2 2/3 innings while using a sidearm throwing motion during one game of Elon’s Fall World Series.
“I like playing everywhere,” Jones said. “It’s fun coming out every day, seeing where I’m at on the lineup card.”
But don’t expect to see Jones starting on the mound on Friday nights once the season starts, Kennedy said.
“He probably won’t be out there much,” Kennedy said. “He’s played around with that a ton since he’s been here. He knows his responsibility — he’s going to hit in the middle of the order, and if [pitching] gets in the way of this, he won’t do that.”
The fall provides an opportunity to give all Elon baseball players some options and see who works best where.
Sophomore Nick Zammarelli has played all fall in left field, where he saw some action this summer playing on a team in his home state of Rhode Island. Zammarelli played mostly third base last season for Elon, while appearing in left one game because of injuries.
Junior Joey Tomko has been playing a lot at third base after coming back from an injury that caused him to miss all of last season.
“Every intrasquad we play, [Zammarelli’s] out there [in left field],” Kennedy said. “We’re not as worried about third base. He’ll probably play there some, but he’s played there his whole life. The goal was to get him as many reps out left as we possibly could, and he’s doing OK out there.”
Zammarelli started 43 games in 2014 and hit .284 with 22 runs batted in. He said it doesn’t matter to him where he plays in the field.
“I just want to hit, to be honest,” he said. “[The versatility] shows what we have, and it’s something special.”
The Phoenix has four months to figure it all out before it counts. But these scrimmages and practices in the fall are valuable for creating the team’s image.
“We’re trying to get the best lineup we can out on the field,” Kennedy said.