Jones flying high in his second Silver Knights season

Telegraph photo by TOM KING A healthy Dylan Jones is having a much better season thus far for the Nashua Silver Knights at and behind the plate than he did a year ago.

NASHUA – Dylan Jones spends most of his baseball career low to the ground, crouched down as a catcher behind home plate.

But after baseball and school, the Nashua Silver Knights receiver plans to be high above ground, up, up and away, as an airplane pilot.

“I want to fly,” Jones said. “I already have my private pilot’s licence.”

The soon-to-be senior is studying criminal justice at Franklin Pierce, however, because law enforcement is in his family with his father, uncle, and cousin all have police careers. But he’d rather fly planes, and after college will go back to flight school with a lot more to study before being able to fly a commercial aircraft, his goal.

“After privates you have your multi-engine, instrument ratings, you’ve got to get 1500 hours before you can do anything,” he said.

But, before all that, Jones has one more year of baseball. He’d like to play beyond college, but knows that may not be too realistic.

One thing’s for sure, there is a big difference between his summer of 2019 so far compared to the summer of 2018. This year, he’s had a much better time in the first three weeks of the FCBL season after hitting just .183 last summer for Nashua.

But there was a good reason for that. He was injured last year, having suffered a broken wrist that initially he was told wasn’t broken.

“I got into a bad habit of dropping my wrist, because I couldn’t finish my swing,” Jones said. “I healed it up after the summer season was over and got back to work.”

“He’s healthy,” Silver Knights manager B.J. Neverett said. “He was playng last season with a broken hand, just never was healthy. That (his improved play) is what we thought we would have last year, because that’s what he had done at school. But he just was never healthy.”

Even early in his junior year, health woes persisted. He started off slow this past spring at Franklin Pierce because he had skipped most of fall ball, not just because of resting the wrist, but when he at least tried to work out with the team he dislocated his knee during a conditioning drill.

“I got in a bad habit again,” he said. “And then right toward the end of the year I started figuring it out and just haven’t slowed down.”

He was hitting .500 after the first week and while down to .362 entering Tuesday night’s scheduled game vs. Brockton at Holman Stadium, but was second on the team with 13 RBIs. He had, prior to last night, four doubles, a triple and a homer, plus an OPS of 1.053.

What a difference a year makes.

“Big difference,” Jones said. “It’s actually fun this year. It’s much more enjoyable. Getting out every at-bat, you’re on base a good percentage of the time. Hopefully it stays that way.”

“He’s healthy right now and we’re taking care of him,” Neverett said, “and he’s done a great job catching. He’s really become a silent leader on the team. He’s really taken a leadership role.”

When not catching, Jones is used as a DH. With perhaps his final college season – and likely final baseball season, period – ahead, he wants as much playing time as possible.

“He just swings at good pitches,” Neverett said. “He’s got a nice swing. He’s a smart hitter, you don’t see him swinging at bad pitches very often. We’re glad to have him.”

Jones has tried to stay “opposite side,middle, not pulling off the ball, and reacting to the inside pitch.”

He’s also tried to refrain from getting underneath the ball with a more level swing. And when the weather finally warms up (it’s got to, right?) he thinks he’ll be even better.

“I’m a warm weather player, I’m from Florida,” he said with a grin. “I play much better when it’s warm out there.”

Then what was a kid from Florida doing coming up to play ball in oft-frozen New England, when college baseball games, are played with snowbanks alongside muddy fields or artificial turf? It turns out former Franklin Pierce coach Jayson King had coached Jones’ high school coach in the Cape Cod League, and the connection was made. “He recruited me from there, right before I graduated from high school,” he said.

Pierce was the only school he got accepted to for criminal justice, so up north he came.

Meanwhile, Jones is determined to be the best catcher he can possibly be. Every day at school he’d work with coaches on his catching; every day before a game he’ll have someone throw him pitches to block.

“I’m receiving bare hand just to get into it,” he said.

“He’s very good back there,” Neverett said. “The pitchers all like throwing to him.”

Handling pitchers is also a big part of the job, made even more difficult in the FCBL because of unfamiliarity with teammates and the short season.

Jones’ solution? Get to know his pitchers on a more personal basis.

“It’s not that bad,” he said. “The first day I will try to talk with them, not about baseball, but try to get friendly with them. It’s a lot better when you’re closer with a guy than before he goes out to the mound not having talked to them before. It relaxes him a little bit. It’s just kind of like a pitcher-catcher relationship. Kind of hard to explain, but relaxed.”

A relaxed and healthy Jones, meanwhile, is flying high for the Silver Knights. In a couple of years, he plans on flying even higher.