Doug Jones, who coached Pusch Ridge to a 2009 Class 2A state title after a successful 16-year major-league career as a reliever, passed away Monday at age 64 from complications with COVID-19.
After five MLB All-Star game appearances and joining the 300-save club, Jones lived in Oro Valley and coached at Pusch Ridge in the 2009 season.
His son Dawson was a senior pitcher-third baseman for the Lions when they won the title in 2009.
“The chances of you getting a coach that played 18 years in the professional ball is slim,” Pusch Ridge senior third baseman Joey DeGroff told the Tucson Citizen in a 2009 interview. “It’s nice to have that experience. We’ve learned a lot. It has been great.
“His coaching style is laid back, but he can be intense as well, which I think works for this program.”
Two other sons, Dustin and Dillon Jones, also played for Pusch Ridge. The elder Jones joined the Lions’ program in 2008, eight years after his retirement from pitching.
Jones helped coach Pusch Ridge players since his oldest son played for the Lions in 2000, but he took over officially as head coach in 2009.
In 2010, Jones became the pitching coach for San Diego Christian College, where his friend and former teammate Chris Bando coached. On Jan. 22, 2015, he was named pitching coach for the Boise Hawks, a minor league affiliate of the Colorado Rockies.
“In 2009, Pusch Ridge Christian Academy called me and said they really needed me to come back and coach. They were going through staffing transitions so I took the job,” Jones told the Purple Slope, a Colorado Rockies blog, in 2018. “It was a small school where everyone makes the team and is given a hat and uniform. I told the parents we’re just going to have fun and be there to encourage the kids.”
Jones mentioned the team didn’t have a lot of talent, but it was scrappy.
“We had two or three kids who were pretty good with a few supporting cast members that were athletic enough to compete,” he said. “We ended up winning the state championship that year.”
He worked for the Arizona Diamondbacks as a pitching consultant before returning to Pusch Ridge. He was asked to take over the team until the school hired a replacement the following season.
Jones was drafted by the Brewers in 1978, after playing for Central Arizona College, making his major league debut in 1982. His big break came with the Cleveland organization, when he was converted from a starter to a reliever in 1985.
“They told me go to the bullpen or go home,” Jones told the Tucson Citizen back in 2002.
In 1988, Jones led the Indians with 37 saves and was one of the top relievers in the game.
Jones stayed with Cleveland through 1991 before moving around on an almost yearly basis. He played for Houston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, the Chicago Cubs, had second stints with Milwaukee and Cleveland, and finally Oakland in 1999-2000.
He was the oldest player in the majors in 2000 at 43. He held the Indians’ career record for saves with 129 until Bob Wickman broke it on May 7, 2006.
“Obviously, our record (reflects Jones’ experience),” said DeGroff.
The Cleveland Guardians (the new name of the franchise) announced that Jones passed away in Arizona.
When he joined Boise in 2015, the club mentioned in his bio he lives in Tucson. He is survived by his wife Debbie and his three sons and grandchildren.
He and his wife built an independent Christian recording label in Tucson — His Heart Music, LLC, and His Heart Summits, Inc.; hosting twice a year, pastors, worship leaders, singers, musicians and writers in the church, to get away and be refreshed. He also volunteered his time to his church, working to develop sound and recording technicians.
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon. He became an educator five years ago and is presently a special education teacher at Gallego Fine Arts Intermediate in the Sunnyside Unified School District