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Former Viking inks with Rangers

baseball -- Forest Grove grad Derrick Jones signs a free agent contract with the Texas Rangers

It took a few days longer than expected and a 17-hour, trans-continental airline flight, but George Fox University All-American and former Forest Grove High School standout Derrick Jones finally got his opportunity to play professional baseball.

Jones signed a free agent contract with the Texas Rangers on June 15, and he has already reported to the Spokane Indians of the Class A Northwest League.

When the Major League baseball draft was held on June 6-7, Jones was in Europe on one of the university's 'Juniors Abroad' trips, a study program that was the final class he needed for graduation. The Bruins' star pitcher and designated hitter - who had been scouted by several teams over the course of the season - followed the draft from an Internet cafe in Ireland, but he was not selected in any of the 50 rounds.

'I was so disappointed, I turned off my cell phone,' said Jones. 'I just didn't want to talk to anybody.'

But the Rangers wanted to talk to him.

Texas' northwest scout Gary McGraw contacted George Fox head coach Pat Bailey, who broke the news that Jones was busy in Europe.

'We've got a spot for him,' said McGraw, 'but he needs to come back if he wants to play.'

Bailey relayed the message to Jones' parents in Forest Grove, and they were finally able to reach their son by leaving a message at his hotel. Jones flew back from Dublin to Seattle on Wednesday, June 14, where he met his father and drove to Spokane to sign a free agent contract the very next day.

Jones made his professional debut in the Indians' season opener on Monday, June 19, a 10-3 loss to the visiting Salem-Keizer Volcanoes before a crowd of 7,413 at Avista Stadium, Spokane's largest home crowd in 10 years. Jones worked a one-two-three fifth inning before surrendering a walk, a single and a three-run home run in the sixth.

Jones was a versatile athlete in his four years at George Fox, playing right field as well as designated hitter and pitcher for the Bruins. He expects to be used exclusively on the mound by the Rangers, however, adding with a laugh, 'I think my days as a hitter are over.'

On the hill, Jones posted a career record of 22-5 with seven saves, a 3.04 ERA and 174 strikeouts in 177.2 innings for the Bruins. He ranks sixth all-time in wins, second in saves, fourth in ERA, sixth in strikeouts and seventh in innings pitched.

At the plate, Jones batted .345 with 181 hits, 46 doubles, 22 home runs, 139 RBIs and 139 runs scored in 153 career games. He is sixth all-time in hits, second in doubles, sixth in home runs, fourth in RBIs and seventh in runs.

Jones was a two-time All-Northwest Conference selection. As a junior, he was named NWC Co-Pitcher of the Year when he went 9-1 with a 2.50 ERA and 73 strikeouts. He went on to earn NCAA Division III All-West Region and All-America First Teams honors as a utility player with a .377 batting average, 17 doubles, 10 home runs and 63 RBIs.

This past season, Jones was named NWC Player of the Year with a 6-3 record on the mound, a 3.29 ERA and 66 strikeouts, while also batting .382 with 14 doubles, six home runs and 42 RBIs. He was named Second Team All-West Region as a utility player.

During his playing days at Forest Grove, Jones was a four-year varsity player and a two-time 4A All-State selection. As a senior he batted .494 with four home runs and was named team MVP.

Jones was also an honor student and a three-time letter-winner in both basketball and football. He is the son of Bob Jones and Linda Lee of Forest Grove.