Barry Jones waited as higher-touted outfielders went ahead of him. When they moved up, he would get his chance and he had to be ready.
"Even when I wasn't playing every day," Jones told The Sumter Daily Item in 1986, "I was going out and busting my butt in practice every day.
"I think of guys who don't put out all they've got during BP and that makes me work harder. I knew I would get the chance and I wanted to be ready."
Jones went on to play in 98 games for Sumter in 1986, hitting .271. He would earn a promotion himself to AA Greenville in 1988 and would play in parts of five seasons at AAA. But his waiting never paid off with a trip to the majors.
Jones made AAA Richmond for 35 games in 1988, hitting .278. He returned for 1989, then again in 1990, both for the full seasons. Jones moved on for 1991, with the Twins and the Indians systems, with similar results. A brief return to the Braves at Richmond for 1993 and his time in affiliated ball was done.
But his time in baseball wouldn't be done until seven years later, ending in 2000. Jones spent seven more seasons with the independent Texas-Louisiana League, first with Beaumont, then with Abilene then with Ozark. Mostly, Jones was a player-manager.
With Ozark in 2000, a Jones pitching decision in the playoffs did not pay off. Speaking to the Amarillo Globe News afterward, Jones stood by his decision. "If I had to do it over 1,000 times, I'd do it again."
Back in 1986, talking to The Item, Jones knew he might not make the ultimate goal of the major leagues. But he was trying to do everything possible to make that happen.
"I've always put out 110 percent," Jones told The Item. "I've always done my best by hustling. I'm a long shot in baseball. I've got to do that."
- The Sumter Daily Item, May 7, 1986: Jones' patience pays in Braves' 13-6 victory
- The Sumter Daily Item, July 10, 1986: Waiting game over for Jones, Part 2
- The Sumter Daily Item, Aug. 5, 1986: Jones powers Braves past Pirates in 10th
- The Amarillo Globe News, Sept. 10, 2000: Dillas advance to another title series