Nate Jones youth baseball camp just the start of his vision

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It’s not too often a former Major Leaguer comes back home to focus on restoring baseball in the community.

For Pendleton County and Northern Kentucky University alum Nate Jones, it’s exactly what he’s looking to do.

Jones shined on the mound at his alma mater Pendleton County before heading to Highland Heights to play for the Norse. His ability stood out, drafted by the Chicago White Sox in the 2007 MLB Draft. He made his debut for the South Siders in 2012 and played there for eight seasons before rounding out his career with stops in Cincinnati, Atlanta and the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Jones retired in 2021 after a 10-year career and multiple surgeries.

He’s back in Falmouth now, helping raise four kids with his wife Lacy and recently accepted the head baseball coaching job at Pendleton County High School. That’s not his only coaching job, either.

“When I volunteered to help out with the rec baseball league, I became three coaches. So I am kid pitch girls softball and coach pitch boys softball and I am t-ball. That’s where my time goes. It’s been enjoyable. It’s been fun. There’s nights that I’m tired, but you see a smile on their face, they’re having fun. That’s all you need to keep going,” Jones said.

Jones hosted a youth baseball camp Monday through Wednesday at the Pendleton County Athletic Park, bringing down some current NKU baseball players and Pendleton County High School baseball players for instruction. The camp ended on Wednesday with Jones signing autographs and handing out certificates to the 30-plus kids in attendance.

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Jones signed autographs for campers at the end of camp on Wednesday. Evan Dennison | LINK nky

“It’s something that came together quickly with me becoming a coach and then realizing that there’s an opportunity to give back right away. There’s a lot of camps going on, basketball, soccer, softball so I wanted to put on a baseball one on. From my recollection, when I came through here there wasn’t one and since then there wasn’t one and I don’t know if there ever was one,” Jones said.

Prior to accepting the position at Pendleton County, Jones served as a director of player development for the Norse baseball team. His skillset was obviously with pitching, but helped out wherever he could, whenever he could. That’s something Jones does without hesitation, giving pitching lessons to other local high school athletes and others that inquire.

Colton Kucera, Kaden Echeman, Clay Brock and Brennan Rowe were the Norse players to come down and help instruct.

“Having those NKU guys come down means a lot. We had two first team All-Conference players, one second team All-Conference player. NKU turned it around in one year, had a winning season and a third seed in the conference tournament. They gave great instruction, hitters talked about hitting and the mental approach, pitchers talked about mechanics and for them to come down and take time out of their day meant a lot,” Jones said.

The camp was the start of his vision for the future of baseball in the county.

He takes over a program that hasn’t seen a winning record since 2012 or a region tournament since 2015. Jones is the fifth coach in the last three years since the 2020 season was canceled due to COVID.

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Jones and the Pendleton County baseball team helped instruct the camp along with a few NKU baseball players. Evan Dennison | LINK nky

“His desire to build a program and have something that will last for a long time made this hire a no-brainer,” Pendleton County athletic director Jon Wirth said. “He’s involved with the youth and the rec leagues already, wants to give back and wants baseball to succeed and that was pretty obvious. This is something I think he’s always wanted to do was give back and coach. He wasn’t sure when that would be and this looks to be the right thing at the right time.”

Monday through Wednesday was about the youth, though. Jones and the players who helped instruct ran drills at the Pendleton County Athletic Park for three days for boys entering second through eighth grade.

“They’re looking up to you and they’re having fun because you’re there and all the high school kids are here and the NKU guys are here, it’s awesome. It makes you realize maybe I can make an impact. It gives you confidence you’re doing the right thing. If the kids are having fun, if they’re learning stuff, that’s all you can do,” Jones said. “Just trying to give them that knowledge that I have and keeping the game fun for them. Hopefully that instills the love of the game to them and they continue to want to learn and continue on and maybe it gives them a chance later on in life like I was given.”

Growing up as a Reds fan, Jones said he’s now 50-50 between his childhood team and where he spent the majority of his career with the White Sox. He did get to pitch with the Reds in 2020, but during the COVID season, no one really got a chance to see it in person, restricted to watching it on TV. He then got a World Series ring with the 2021 champion Atlanta Braves.

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“It’s crazy to think about that. These fields weren’t here when I was younger. Grew up in the county and came from here and played in the little leagues and all that stuff. To make it to NKU was a big step and then get drafted was a big step. I was blessed to play 10 years in the big leagues. Very fortunate what it provided for my family and fortunate enough to have a wonderful wife that that helped a ton along the way and couldn’t have done it without her,” Jones said. “I just hope to be able to share the knowledge to the kids. Throughout the 10 years I never fell asleep on the bus rides or the plane rides or anything. I always tried to pay attention when people were talking and just taking information because it was new to me. Hopefully I can push out as much as I can with this.”

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