Chris Jones’ 11th season running Sages baseball is on hold, but he still found time to reflect on his tenure in Piatt County and what it’s meant to help grow the sport in Monticello:
How were you feeling about your 2020 roster before the pandemic?
We were going to be young. We had four seniors, got a fairly big junior class, but we were going to be relying on some underclassmen to fill out. … I was optimistic. I don’t know how we would’ve started out the year, but I think as we got accustomed to varsity playing that I thought we would be playing fairly well by this time of year.
It sounds like this is a crucial year for your guys, then.
Absolutely. I’m heartbroken for the seniors, that to this point right now they’ve not been able to play their senior year. As a program … it would’ve been very beneficial for our program to play these games and get these juniors and underclassmen valuable varsity experience.Your teams have finished above .500 in nine of 10 seasons so far.
Is this how you envisioned your time at Monticello panning out?
There’s a lot of buy-in from the players. … One of the obstacles I felt like I had to get through when I first became coach here was we didn’t really have a summer program for high school-aged kids. We went through and got a senior legion team, just to get those players to play. … And then we tackled junior high baseball. We were able to get that back, getting those kids back at an earlier age, playing together. So there’s been a little bit of a process getting to this point, and the kids have bought into it. The parents have bought into it. And they’re playing a lot of baseball, and we’re starting to see the success of that.
How cool has it been for you to help get Monticello baseball where it is today?
It’s been rewarding. It’s been fun. It’s been exciting to watch the kids. It was a very exciting time for us because we just finished a big renovation on the baseball field. We’ve got a new backstop, new press box. We’ve got warning tracks put in. We’ve done quite a bit, and it was an exciting year for us to get out and be proud. And that’s something we’ve talked about: taking pride in the program. And we’ve had numerous kids, before we were issued the stay-at-home order, that had been out there putting sweat equity into that field. Tearing up sod, putting sod down, putting siding up on the press box. It’s been exciting. It’s been rewarding to watch over the years.