Vanderbilt’s Alonzo Jones one of college baseball’s fastest – The Tennessean
While the NFL Draft celebrates blazing 40-yard dash times this weekend, Vanderbilt touts one of the fastest sprinters in college baseball.
Freshman Alonzo Jones ran the 60-yard dash in 6.17 seconds at a 2014 Perfect Game national showcase for prospects — the fastest time on grass in the history of the event, which has clocked countless major leaguers over the years.
“When I ran it, the scouts were like, ‘You’re done. You don’t have to do anything else after running like that,’” Jones said. “I don’t really talk about (my speed) much, but my teammates know about it and even joke about it.”
Jones has grown accustomed to people being wowed by his speed. At Columbus (Ga.) High, he only played baseball. But when the school’s track coach learned of his speed, he told Jones he could run the sprinting events at the team meets without attending practice.
“But the track season was during baseball, and I didn’t have time,” Jones said. “I wanted to concentrate on baseball.”
Jones’ speed has not been apparent in every game for No. 7 Vanderbilt (31-10, 10-8 SEC), which hosts Georgia (22-20, 7-11) in a three-game series beginning at 6:30 p.m. Friday.
Jones has stolen eight bases in 10 attempts while serving mostly as a designated hitter. His quick stride has helped him leg out 11 doubles and two triples — both ranked as the second-most on the squad.
And in his four games playing in the field — three at second base and one at shortstop — Jones has closed the gap quickly on some hard hit balls.
Coach Tim Corbin said the difference in Jones being a game-changing runner and a merely an occasional highlight comes back to a football comparison of 40-yard dash times to actual game speed.
“What matters the most in baseball is first-step quickness, and you could very well say that about football too in getting off the line of scrimmage,” Corbin said. “For a baseball player, getting off the line of scrimmage is getting a jump on a ball defensively or getting out of the gates on a pitcher if you’re trying to steal a base.
“Straight-ahead speed is important. But your first burst is the most important step you can take for success in baseball.”
Corbin said past Vanderbilt standouts such as Dansby Swanson and Tony Kemp had a unique “first burst and the ability to get to full speed right away.” He hopes to develop the same in Jones, who already has a role in the lineup with a .303 average and 27 RBIs in 32 starts.
Jones is amid a logjam in the middle infield, as six different Commodores have started at second base or shortstop this season. If he plays this weekend, it will likely be in a designated hitter role. Jones did not play in last weekend’s series at Tennessee, but he had a career-high three hits in a win over Austin Peay Tuesday.
Reach Adam Sparks at 615-259-8010 and on Twitter @AdamSparks.
NO. 7 VANDERBILT (31-10, 10-8 SEC) VS. GEORGIA (22-20, 7-11)
When: 6:30 p.m. Friday; 2 p.m. Saturday; 1 p.m. Sunday