Tigers' JaCoby Jones makes a splash in MLB debut

DETROIT -- When JaCoby Jones picked up the phone Monday night, he heard Triple-A manager Lloyd McClendon on the other end:

"Hey kid, what are you doing?"

It was 11:30 p.m. Jones told McClendon that he was watching television.

As it turned out, Jones had a big day ahead of him. McClendon informed him that he'd be making his major league debut for the Detroit Tigers the next night against the Chicago White Sox. It was the news Jones had been waiting to hear since he was a young kid.

Then Jones made a phone call, which he called "probably the best call I've ever had in my life." His mom was in tears. His dad could be heard over the din in the background. His parents scrambled to book flights from their home in Mississippi.

After a whirlwind day of travel, they made it in time to see their 24-year-old son debut at third base. More importantly, they were in the stands when Jones recorded a storybook moment in the sixth inning. He notched his first hit with an RBI double that gave the Tigers a 4-3 lead and sparked the offense to an 8-4 victory.

Television cameras panned to his family's section after the hit. Jones' mom, overcome with emotion, was beaming and bouncing on her toes in excitement for her son.

"That's probably one of the biggest things I can think about right now," Jones said. "My parents being here for that moment for me. It's just, I don't know how to describe it. It's amazing. Just getting on a plane to come up here and watch me, for all those years they put up with me, traveling and everything, it's amazing. I'm glad they got to be up here for it."

Jones has experienced a lot in the past 13 months. He was traded to the Tigers at the 2015 deadline in the deal for closer Joakim Soria. He was suspended 50 games in the offseason for his second positive test for a drug of abuse. It hasn't been a smooth path to the big leagues. But when Jones arrived Tuesday night, those things were not on his mind.

"Something I'll never forget, my first big-league hit," Jones said. "It's just something you work hard for to get here, and to get it on the first night, it's simply amazing."

Jones, who is known for both his athleticism and his versatility (he can play third base and center field and considers shortstop his natural position), followed his clutch hit with another RBI in the seventh inning. That made him the first Tiger since Hank Riebe on Aug. 26, 1942, to record two or more hits and two or more RBIs in his major league debut.

"Very excited for him," manager Brad Ausmus said. "Every major league player remembers their first hit. It's something he'll never forget, and it was nice his family was here to see it. The fans welcomed him even before he was announced for his first at-bat."

The fan reception for Jones when he approached the plate in the second was so overwhelming that he almost stepped out of the batter's box.

"It says a lot about [the Tigers fans]," Jones said of the ovation. "I'm pretty sure they were just stoked because it was my major league debut, so I'm pretty sure everybody was yelling for that. But, yeah, the fact that they were just screaming, cheering me on. It was a great feeling."