The accolades for Columbus baseball player Al Jones have piled up for the past couple of seasons.
First-team All-Bi-City was just the tip of the iceberg, as he was named to the Perfect Game and UnderArmour All-American teams as well.
On Wednesday, he completed his biggest accomplishment to date, signing his letter of intent to play with the defending national champion Vanderbilt University.
“It’s a relief,” he said. “It feels pretty good.”
Jones, who was rated as the fastest player in the 2015 class, said signing with Vanderbilt came down to both athletics and academics. The fact that the Commodores are a perennial contender nationally, culminating in their first ever national title last season, was a major selling point. So, too, was the school’s prestigious academic reputation.
“It’s just a great combination,” Jones said, adding the city was a major plus as well. “The whole Nashville atmosphere really fits me too.”
The fact that he is now a part of a major program is not lost on him. Columbus baseball coach Bobby Howard noted how difficult it will be to earn a spot now that he will be playing with some of the best players in the country. Jones understands the challenge.
“It just motivates me to take this season and improve as much as I can so I’ll be ready to contribute next year,” he said.
His signing doesn’t rule out the possibility of another major accomplishment in the summer. Jones will be eligible for the Major League draft and is projected as a potential high pick. His concentration now, though, is to help Columbus succeed in his senior season and improve as a player.
“Then we’ll make the decision about the draft after that,” he said.
Jones was joined by Khayla Lloyd onstage during the signing ceremony on Wednesday. She was signing a basketball scholarship to the College of Coastal Georgia.
She said she was happy to get the signing out of the way and be able to focus on her final season on the court, where she hopes to help the Lady Blue Devils back to the state championship game.
“I want to get back to state,” she said. “Going out for my senior season like that would be a perfect end.”