Fresno State welcomes back one of their most successful pitchers, as Bobby Jones returns to take up a Bulldog uniform once again. Taking his first coaching position since retiring from professional baseball in 2002, Jones' primary duty will be filling the role of pitching coach, and he will set the strength and conditioning program for the pitchers as well as assisting with recruiting.
Drafted by the New York Mets in the first round of the 1991 major league draft, Jones made quick work of the minors, moving to the Mets roster after two years in the minors. Jones was an Eastern League all-star in 1992 and won two Doubleday awards as the team MVP for both Norfolk and Binghamton. Jones pitched in nine games for the Mets in 1993, going 2-4 in his first season in the league. In 1994, Jones joined the major league roster for good, racking up a 12-7 record for the Mets while recording a career-best 3.15 ERA in his first full season. His 12 wins was sixth among all National League pitchers, and his 3.15 ERA was seventh.
Continuing to be consistent, Jones won 10 games in 1995, was sixth in the league with 30 starts, and joined the National League leaderboard from the other side of the plate, laying down a league-best 18 sacrifice hits. Jones made his first opening day start in 1995, tossing a shutout against Colorado. In 1996, Jones made his second consecutive opening day start and made a career-high 31 starts.
1997 was one of the finest years of Jones' career. He won a career-high 15 games and was named to the National League All-Star team for the first time in his career. Jones pitched a scoreless eighth inning in the Fall Classic, retiring Nomar Garciaparra and striking out Ken Griffey Jr. and Mark McGwire. His 15 wins were ninth in the league that season, and was named the National League Pitcher of the Month in May after he went 5-0 with a 1.15 ERA.
Jones continued to pitch for four more years with the Mets, going 9-9 in 1998 before pitching in only 12 games in 1999 due to injuries. He returned to form in 2000 however, finishing 11-6 overall, but was 10-3 with a 3.69 ERA in his final 19 starts as the Mets earned the National League Wild Card.
The postseason proved to be a fine showcase for Jones and for Fresno State, as Jones faced off against fellow Fresno State alumnus Mark Gardner in game four of the NLDS against the San Francisco Giants. The Mets clinched the Division title that night as Jones out-dueled Gardner, throwing a complete game shutout to seal a 4-0 win for the Mets. Jones allowed just one hit on the night, a double to Jeff Kent, and struck out five on the way to the win.
Finishing up his career in San Diego, Jones pitched for two seasons with the Padres before announcing his retirement. In a ten-year professional career, Jones finished with an 89-83 record, a career 4.36 ERA and struck out 887 batters. He had seven seasons where he made 20 starts or more, and was one of only eight pitchers to finish .500 or better every year between 1994-2000.
As impressive as his professional career was, Jones' collegiate career was even stronger. Jones went 32-9 with a 2.45 ERA and 16 saves in three seasons at Fresno State. A Freshman All-American in 1989, Jones was the closer for Fresno State, finishing the year with 11 saves and a 7-4 record, and was 9-3 with five saves in 1990. Heading into 1991 as the ace of the staff, Jones responded with a fantastic year, starting 20 games and recording a 16-2 record, leading the team to Fresno State's third College World Series appearance. Jones threw 18 complete games that season, and struck out 166 batters on the way to being named the National Pitcher of the Year, a consensus All-American and a finalist for the Golden Spikes Award.
Jones' name covers the Fresno State record book in many areas. As one of the most complete pitchers ever to play at Fresno State, Jones is tied for third in career wins and is second in saves. His 2.45 career ERA is fifth in Fresno State history, and Jones is in the top 10 in complete games, strikeouts and innings pitched. His 16 wins in 1991 is tied for second among single season performances, and his 11 saves in 1989 is the most for any Fresno State closer. In addition, his 18 complete games in 1991 is second in NCAA history behind only Fresno State's John Hoover, who had 19 in 1984. Jones' 172.0 innings pitched also stands in the NCAA records as the eighth most in Division I history.
A member of the Fresno Athletic Hall of Fame and the Fresno State Baseball Hall of Fame, Jones was a two-sport star at Fresno High, helping lead Ken Papi's team to the Valley championship as a senior in 1988. Teaming up with his opponent in the 2000 NLDS, Mark Gardner, Jones is also the co-founder of the "Step to the Plate" Foundation. The organization is dedicated to helping the families of transplant recipients in honor of Lori Gardner, the wife of Mark who passed away in 2003 from liver cancer.
Jones was born on Feb. 10, 1970 in Fresno. He and his wife, Kristi, have three children, Breyton, Shaylee and Avery and currently reside in Clovis.
National League All-Star (1997)