Dave Jones — or “Jonesy,” as everyone calls him — wiped tears from his eyes Wednesday, July 28, as Brainerd Parks and Rec board member Troy Rushmeyer presented the renamed bronco baseball field at Jaycees Park in honor of the longtime umpire.
The 65-year-old “Jonesy” was an umpire for Bronco and Pony youth baseball games for Brainerd Parks and Rec for 35 years.
“He’s umped high school, middle school, VFW, Legion and other neighboring towns, but I think youth baseball has always been his love,” Rushmeyer said. “He’s touched a lot of lives in 35 years and everyone here is here to pay him back.”
The naming of the field after Jones was a surprise to him and he was met with roughly 30 friends and family to congratulate him.
“My career has come full circle,” Jones said. “To see my name up there, I knew my sister was up to something. I just love this community. I’ve been so tickled pink to be able to do what I’ve been able to do for half of my life. It looks pretty special.”
Former Brainerd Parks and Rec director Tony Sailer said that no one knew the rule book like Jones. Rushmeyer echoed that and added that he would take time to explain the rules of baseball to the players.
“Jonesy would stop to let a player or fan know why he made a call and to explain the rules to them,” Rushmeyer said. “He was very energetic and players would get excited when they knew he was umping their games. Especially during the playoffs.”
Rushmeyer continued to say how Jones was a teacher of the game of baseball while being an umpire at the youth level.
“That’s what set him apart,” Rushmeyer said. “He showed a real zest and love for the game that was infectious — not just for the game, but for the kids. He set the bar really high for other umps.”
Sailer mentioned “Jonesy” was a favorite amongst the kids playing and parents watching.
“He had knee problems and ankle problems and other physical issues, but he kept showing up always,” Sailer said. “I don’t know how many times some ump would call me right before the game was going to start and say, ‘I’m not coming,’ and Jonesy would just be there at the drop of a hat. I relied on him a lot. He made my job a lot easier.”
Jones was known for his strike three calls and hustling to make a call at a base, which endeared Jones to Sailer.
“You could see the love of game through him,” Sailer said. “You could see he gave every ounce of the game to the kids and I think people picked up on that, that he was putting his heart and soul into this. And Jonesy treated every game like it was a Major League game. And if you watched him umpire, he was into it. The big exaggerated calls. He was loud. I used to tease him that if he was umpiring at Jaycees Park and I couldn’t hear him Bane Park you know what’s the problem. He just loved it. He was born to be an umpire.”
One memory Jones spoke of was when he was umpiring an all-star game and he joked with the catcher that the all-star game goes seven innings not the traditional six.
“I asked him, ‘What do you think you’re going to be doing for that seventh inning?’” Jones said. “And he looked back at me and said, ‘You know Jonesy I think I’m going to have to work on my mustache.’ I’ll never forget that.”
Jones also had the opportunity to umpire games in Cooperstown, New York, which is the home of the Baseball Hall of Fame. Jones umpired the big youth baseball tournament at Cooperstown, which he did for eight years.
Most of all, Jones was just happy he would impact the Brainerd community.
“I’m glad I was able to make an impact on kids,” Jones said. “The kids are going to be leading this community. We are going to have to do what they say pretty soon. I’m 65 now and I think I’m going to try and get in better shape and try to come back for a couple years if they’ll have me.”
CONRAD ENGSTROM may be reached at 218-855-5861 or email@example.com. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/the_rad34.