Mr. Consistent: Lee's Jones does a bit of everything

Robert E. Lee senior catcher Tyler Jones receives the pitch in a game played earlier this season. Jones caught every game for the Red Raiders last season and has been behind the plate for every pitch this season. REL takes on North Mesquite at 7 p.m. Friday at Mike Carter Field. (Mark Martin | Correspondent File)

There are certain positions that are identifiable with a team.

Quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys, centerfield for the New York Yankees and center for the Los Angeles Lakers.

And catcher for Robert E. Lee.

For the past decade, if you played catcher for the Red Raiders, chances are you racked up all-district and all-region accolades before going on to play in college.

Names like Jimmy Landes (Baylor), Tyler Pirtle (TJC, Vanderbilt), Colin Moore (Paris JC) and Zach Cannon (U of Dallas) to name a few.

Tyler Jones will soon be added to that list.

"It's a huge honor to be a catcher here," said Jones, who already has an academic offer from Rice, which includes a spot on the baseball team. "I remember my freshman year when Jimmy hit 15 home runs; I was like, ‘Wow, that could be me someday.'

"I go out everyday looking to live up to those expectations and even build upon them."

Jones had to wait his turn, too. Called up to the varsity as a sophomore, Jones caught in just one game that season while backing up senior Travis Miller.

But instead of being frustrated by the lack of playing time, Jones counted it as a blessing and used his sophomore year to get acclimated to the speed and demands of varsity.

"I got to sit back and see how pitchers were throwing to batters and see what the batters were doing," said Jones, who is ranked No. 2 academically in his senior class.

"Travis was good at keeping runners close. I learned so much (just watching). I knew right after Travis graduated that I was going to be the guy that was going to go out there every day. I was looking forward to it."

It has been an every day job for Jones, one that Lee coach David Howard said he has made his own.

"He does a great job behind the plate of managing the pitching staff and handling the running game and getting the defense positioned where we need it," Howard said.

Run at your own risk against Jones, who has taken those lessons he learned from Miller and put them to use. Thus far this season, Jones has thrown out 5 of 8 base runners.

More importantly is his calm demeanor and leadership with a relatively inexperienced staff. It was a flip from last year when Jones was the inexperienced backstop receiving offerings from Zach Flanagan (District 12-5A Pitcher of the Year), Ross Himes and J.D. Cobb, all of which earned all-district accolades.

Junior Daniel Bogue had pitched before on varsity, but sparingly. Meanwhile, junior Henry Smith and Parker Bates did not have any varsity innings at the start of this season.

"It was kind of a worry coming into the season, but a lot of those guys have really stepped up into those roles for us," Jones said. "It's really not that much different (than last year). They will go out there and compete and throw strikes for us and give us a good chance to win."

Bogue got the victory with six strong innings of work on the road Tuesday at Mesquite Horn in REL's district opener. Smith got a five-pitch save, navigating out of a bases-loaded, one-out situation in the bottom of the seventh.

Jones had two key hits in the victory over Horn, raising REL's overall mark to 7-6-1 with a 1-0 start to district.

The two-hit day was on par for what Jones has been giving Lee at the plate the past two seasons — consistency. He enters today's game with North Mesquite sporting a .282 average and .466 on-base percentage. He has also scored 12 runs.

"He consistently gives us good at-bats," Howard said. "We batted Jones first because of that and his willingness to immediately pass on the information he learned to our next hitter."

His RBI total is about to increase now that Howard has moved Jones down one spot in the batting order.

"I liked leading off; I am not afraid to go out there and get it started," Jones said. "But even in the two hole — now Parker leads off the game with a hit, which seems to be happening more often than not, I can go out there and move him over or knock him in."

The Red Raiders have been a dominant force in the district for over a decade with 13-straight playoff appearances, many of those following district championships.

Lee endured an up and down road in pre-district, but Jones said a win over previously unbeaten Hallsville and extra-inning loss at Waco Midway were key to REL finishing the job at Horn.

"We seem to always play close games, so in the seventh with the bases loaded we didn't panic," Jones said. "It was a close game just like always and we got (the win)."

The Red Raiders now go up against North Mesquite and starting pitcher Tyler Starks, who was the Underclassmen of the Year last season in the district. In two games against REL and Flanagan, Lee won 2-1 at home and lost 2-1 on the road.

"He's a great pitcher and this will be the third year we've seen him," Jones said. "We just want to put as much pressure on him as we can."

First pitch is 7 p.m. Friday at Mike Carter Field.

Raider Rap: Jones wants to major in Mechanical Engineering and continue on to graduate school with aspirations of a field in robotics or roller coaster design … North Mesquite was idle on Tuesday, so this will be the Stallions (7-7-1) district opener.


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