STARKVILLE – Throughout Mississippi State’s lineup this past season were walk-out songs that fans knew and loved.
The Outfield’s “Your Love” introduced every Jake Mangum home at bat while a saxophone riff from Ookay’s “Thief” announced Elijah MacNamee’s plate arrival. There were also a variety of the latest hip-hop hits littered throughout the lineup.
And then there was Hayden Jones’ walk-out song.
The Huntertown, Indiana native went with the theme music from the 80’s hit movie “Indiana Jones”. Jones used the original theme and also a techno version throughout the year, both of which bothered his Bulldog teammates.
“I don’t want to be like all the other guys and have the coolest walk-out song,” Jones said. “My dad’s walk-out song was “Mr. Jones” so it was either going to be that or “Indiana Jones”. I was just trying to brand myself really. The guys give me a hard time and they don’t like it but I don’t like to be normal.”
Jones asked for input from his father, Ken, before making the final selection on his walk-out song. But that decision is far from the only one Ken Jones has helped his son with over the years.
Ken Jones was the starting catcher for Western Michigan for three years and was a 33rd round draft pick by San Diego in 1995. Ken Jones spent one season in the Padres’ farm system before getting into college coaching at his alma mater and Ball State.
“He was a major, major influence in basically my whole game,” Hayden Jones said. “Every single thing I’ve learned on the field comes back to him. He’s the reason why I’m here and if it weren’t for him, I wouldn’t be on this field.”
Hayden Jones was a three-time first team All-State selection at Carroll High School and believes he made a seamless transition to the college level during his freshman year at MSU.
“It really wasn’t a huge change for me,” Hayden Jones said. “Coming in during the fall was a little nerve-wracking not knowing what was coming. But as soon as I got into a rhythm and doing my thing, it all just flowed well and by opening weekend it had all come together and felt like I’d been playing at this level for months.”
Hayden Jones started 14 of the 27 games in which he appeared in for the Diamond Dogs. The 6-foot, 185-pounder hit .224 with four doubles, five RBIs and one stolen base. He also belted his first and only home run of the season on opening weekend against Youngstown State.
“As first I thought ‘I got that one pretty well’,” Hayden Jones said. “Once I got halfway down the line, I knew that one was gone for sure. It was one those where all the hard work paid off.”
Five of Hayden Jones’ starts were behind the plate, the second-most starts at catcher on the team. He admits learning an entirely new pitching staff was the toughest adjustment he had to make during his freshman campaign.
“It’s a big transition and that was one of the hardest things to do,” Hayden Jones said. “As catchers, we are still learning what guys throw in certain situations and what they do best, where their spots are and what their different arm angles are. In high school you only had a couple of guys but now you’ve got 15 or 16 guys to learn.”
Hayden Jones may never have come to Mississippi State if it weren’t for Gary Henderson. The Bulldogs’ former pitching coach was instrumental in him choosing to come to college in Starkville.
“It was all coach Henderson,” Hayden Jones said. “I was going to commit to him at Kentucky and then he came down here. He was the guy I wanted to play for. He brought me down here and was always there. He had the right outlook for me and was always there to talk. I really felt at home with him so when he brought me down here, I just fell in love with it.”
Although MSU’s campus is nearly 700 miles away his hometown, Hayden Jones has really taken to his new Southern surroundings.
“It’s better down here in the South,” Hayden Jones said. “People in the North just aren’t the same. Here it’s a big family and up North it’s sort of everyone for themselves.”
Hayden Jones is back in a Northern climate this summer, currently playing the Newport Gulls of the New England Collegiate Baseball League where he is 3 for 18 with one RBI, one steal and one run scored in five games.