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2017 Cubs Spring Training Countdown: Day 1

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Here’s an article about a member of the Cubs you don’t hear much about.

Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Gary Jones is the Cubs’ third-base coach. He joined the staff when Rick Renteria was named manager in 2014, as the two had been on the coaching staff together with the Padres. Jones was retained by Joe Maddon when he took over as manager, so Jones is now entering his fourth year as third-base coach.

That’s probably all you know about Jones, right? And that’s a good thing. If you don’t know much about your team’s third-base coach, that means he’s probably quietly doing a pretty good job.

Jones actually played four years in the Cubs farm system. Bet you didn’t know that, either. He was signed as an undrafted free agent out of the University of Arkansas in 1982. Primarily a second baseman, he played a bit of third base and outfield, and drew tons and tons of walks — 126 of them for Quad Cities in 1983 (and I almost certainly saw him play, because I saw the QC Cubs play at Madison that summer and he played in 133 of the QC Cubs’ 139 games that year). He led that team in runs, walks and OBP, and walked 138 times the next year at High-A Lodi in the Cal League.

Jones walked over 100 times in five of his eight minor-league seasons and had a career minor-league OBP of .437 (!) — but with no power (.370 SLG), he never made it to the big leagues, peaking at Triple-A in the Athletics organization in 1987. His size (5-9, 170) might have worked against him.

He then began a long career as a minor-league manager in the A’s, Red Sox and Padres organization, spending one year as the A’s first-base coach during that time (1998). Before he came to the Cubs, he was also the Padres’ roving minor-league infield coordinator for seven seasons. He managed championship teams in the Southern League (Huntsville, 1994) and the Pacific Coast League (Edmonton, 1996 and 1997). He was named his league’s manager of the year for those years as well as in 1991 in the Midwest League (Madison).

That’s a lot of baseball, and a lot of accomplishments. As I noted, you rarely hear anything about Jones, and he appears to have done a very good job as the Cubs’ third-base coach for the last three seasons.

Jones is one of only five Cubs non-players to wear uniform No. 1. The other four: Charlie Grimm as manager in 1937 and 1938, Jimmie Wilson as manager in 1941 and 1942, Mel Wright as pitching coach in 1971 and Cookie Rojas as a coach from 1978-81.

One day to go before pitchers and catchers report!