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For Holy Ghost grad Nolan Jones, ‘nothing cooler’ than Citizens Bank homecoming

PHILADELPHIA – Even before playing his first game at Citizens Bank Park, as he would Monday night, the stadium has loomed large in Nolan Jones’ life.

It was part of the steady sports diet in the Langhorne native’s youth, raised in a sports-obsessed family that has produced two pro athletes and counting. It was where he met his fiancée.

And in 2022, when he was in the building for Game 5 of the NLCS, Bryce Harper’s eighth-inning home run against the Padres delivered what Jones called, “probably the most electric atmosphere I’ve ever seen.”

Getting to take the field as a professional for the first time at the Bank, as Jones did in left field for the Colorado Rockies, slots into a prominent place among those memories.

“There’s nothing cooler,” Jones said Monday. “This is where I grew up, coming here watching ball games. I met my fiancée here. I’ve dreamed of this day for a long time.”

It’s been a long journey for Jones. A second-round pick out of Holy Ghost Prep in 2016, Jones was 94 plate appearances into his big league career with Cleveland when he watched Harper’s drive in 2022. Two weeks later, the Guardians dealt him to Colorado.

It would open the path for an under-the-radar rookie season in which Jones played 106 games, hit .297, belted 20 homers and finished fourth in National League Rookie of the Year balloting.

Even though Jones didn’t grow up as a Phillies fan — he was partial to the Red Sox — nights at the Bank were on the summer itinerary in a family that named him for Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan.

Older brother Peyton played hockey at Penn State and is a goaltender in the ECHL, which precludes him from Monday’s homecoming.

Ditto younger sister Liana Jones, hitting .333 as the starting center fielder on Penn State’s softball team.

Andrew Jones — Peyton and Nolan pushed to name him after the Atlanta Braves outfielder after first choice Chipper was rejected — is a pitcher at the University of Tampa. He’ll fly in to be part of the dozen or so relatives here, plus Nolan’s fiancée’s family and two sections of Holy Ghost folks.

“I think it was an easy summer activity for us, as a family to come out here,” Jones said. “Everyone in my family loved baseball … It was something we all got to do together, and it was a lot of fun growing up. Now getting to have them here watching me play on this field is special.”

The 2024 campaign hasn’t started as Jones would’ve wanted. He’s hitting just .190. He didn’t hit his first home run until Friday in Toronto.

His 28 strikeouts are the most in baseball, even if he is seeing the second-most pitches per plate appearance (4.7) in the game.

He’s also struggled in the field with four errors, tied for second-most in baseball, and equal to the number committed last year in an admirable adaptation to his first extended run as an outfielder.

He played 386 of his 553 minor league games at third base, with 83 in the outfield and just four in the left field that has become home.

Jones shouted out the support system in the clubhouse — including veterans Charlie Blackmon, Kris Bryant and Ryan McMahon — as helping him through tough moments.

He suspects being around family will help, too.

“I definitely think it’s a chance to go out there and play with a smile on my face,” Jones said. “I think this game is tougher than anything in the world, especially when you don’t get to see your family and friends for so long, and obviously I’ve been going through it a lot. There’s ups and downs, but I’m as confident as I’ve ever been. But seeing those faces in the crowd is definitely going to make today easier for me.”

Source: Berkshire mont

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