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The Northerner

Former Norse pitcher excels in major league

Kevin Ward, Contributing writer

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Former NKU baseball player Nate Jones recently finished his rookie season with Chicago White Sox. Jones ended the year with an 8-0 record, 65 strikeouts and a 2.39 ERA in 71.2 innings of work.
Jones made 65 appearances for the Sox which made him the second most used relief pitcher for the team, behind veteran Matt Thornton’s 74 appearances. The Sox went 85-77 this season, missing the playoffs and finishing second in the American League Central Division.

Jones, who made the 25-man roster after spring training, made his first major league debut against the Texas Rangers on April 8, striking out MLB All-Star Josh Hamilton on an 82 mph changeup. It was a moment he would never forget.

Jones soon became a go-to guy in the Sox bullpen as he made 24 appearances over the months of May and June. He struggled toward the end of June when he made eight appearances in 10 days. Jones looked to veterans Matt Thornton and Jesse Crain for advice on how to take on the mental aspect of the 162-game season.

“That’s the great thing about having veterans in the bullpen,” Jones said. “They told us from the beginning that it’s a grind. It’s 162 games and you have the possibility of getting in every one of them no matter if you pitched the night before or not. It’s all about winning here.”

Jones came to NKU in 2005 from Pendleton County High School. The current head coach of the Norse, Todd Asalon, recruited him. Asalon saw a tremendous talent in Jones and offered him a scholarship to be a part of the team.

“Anybody could see how good he was going to be,” Asalon said. “He threw ninety plus miles per hour in high school. He was really wild, but there was no taking back how good his arm was.”
Pitching coach, Dizzy Peyton, worked with Jones throughout his NKU career and even through the process of him getting drafted. Jones was selected in the fifth round of the 2007 MLB Draft by the Chicago White Sox, which made him the highest drafted player in NKU history.

“Nate has a motor that he wants to do well for all the people back here,” Peyton said. “To me, he is the epitome of a hometown hero type of guy. He hasn’t changed from the time he has been drafted to now.”
Jones spent a few seasons in the minors before getting called up to the White Sox class-AA affiliate Birmingham Barons in 2011. His 67 strikeouts in 42 games earned him a spot on the Sox roster for the 2012 season.

In the offseason, Jones comes back to NKU to train with the team and help out with the coaches. He likes to keep in touch with the program and he uses NKU as a place to keep in shape during the offseason.
Jones has been a very involved alum of the baseball program and said he does it because of the opportunity NKU gave him.
“This [NKU] was another step along the way that got me to my dream,” Jones said. “I’m not going to forget about it.”

Jones is one of two NKU baseball alums currently playing in the majors. Pitcher Josh Lueke was drafted in the 16th round in 2007 by the Texas Rangers, and he currently plays for the Tampa Bay Rays class-AAA affiliate Durham Bulls. Lueke was on the Rays’ 40-man roster in 2012 and is expected to be on the 25-man roster for the 2013 season.

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Former Norse pitcher excels in major league