Orioles outfielder Adam Jones had just returned to the dugout after hitting his 13th home run of the season Aug. 14.
He immediately turned his attention to a young fan sitting nearby and handed him his batting gloves as a memento.
It was a moment that perfectly underscored Jones' tight relationship with the city of Baltimore. That bond, however, might be coming to an end.
Jones will become a free agent at the end of this season. As the Orioles begin to rebuild the franchise, there are questions as to whether a 33-year-old outfielder is in their plans.
Jones fully understands he could be playing his final days at Camden Yards.
"It's business," Jones said. "When you understand and you can separate the business from the emotion part, then you understand it. A lot of people outside of these clubhouses try to do everything with emotion. It's business.
"Trust me, there are guys that love playing in certain places, but the reality of it is that it's business. So, if the team wants you they want you, if they don't they don't."
The Orioles traded infielders Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop, relievers Zach Britton and Darren O'Day and right-hander Kevin Gausman before the July 31 trade deadline to acquire some younger players for a full rebuild. Jones, however, exercised his no-trade rights because he didn't want to leave after spending more than a decade in Baltimore.
Jones defended that decision.
"When players walked out years ago and walked the picket lines and did all that stuff, they did all that for reasons like right now," Jones said. "I earned this and it's my decision. I don't have to explain it to nobody. It's my decision. Thank you."
The Orioles originally acquired Jones -- along with left-handed reliever George Sherrill and minor league pitchers Kam Mickolio, Chris Tillman and Tony Butler -- from the Seattle Mariners for left-handed starter Erik Bedard Feb. 8, 2008. Jones took his place in center field for the Orioles that year and never relinquished the position until this season when rookie outfielder Cedric Mullins was promoted from Triple-A Norfolk in August.
Instead of pouting, Jones welcomed the young player. Prior to Mullins' arrival in Baltimore, Jones sent out a tweet that read: "End of an Era!!!! Embrace Change!!!!"
When Mullins made his debut Aug. 10, Jones insisted Mullins lead the team onto the field prior to the game. It was a gesture that was greatly appreciated by the rookie.
"It's hard to explain," Mullins said. "It kind of felt like a pass-the-torch situation. Just being able to feel like you're taking charge of your debut. That's the only way I can describe it."
It was a gesture that went a long way in helping Mullins' confidence. Jones has been just as instrumental off the field.
He recently donated $8,500 to the Mamie Johnson Little League team in Washington, D.C., to help the team travel to a tournament in Bristol, Conn., to qualify for the Little League World Series. Helping area youth has been one of his main initiatives as a pro player.
"It meant an opportunity for a group of young men that deserved it," Jones said. "This was something easy for me to do for these kids to get what they earned and deserved. Not just myself, but other people donated to them. We're watching their journey and it's amazing to see these kids. I FaceTimed them the other day and was able to see their energy. It's about giving the next generation an opportunity to succeed."
In addition, Jones hosts the annual #StayHungry Purple Tailgate party before a Baltimore Ravens game. The event has raised more than $180,000 for the Boys & Girls Club of Metropolitan Baltimore.
Jones also donated $75,000 annually to the local Boys & Girls Clubs. However, Jones not only donates his money, but also his time to meet with many of the children who benefit from these programs.
Despite his position in the local community, the future remains murky for Jones in Baltimore.
Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette has been noncommittal about Jones' future with the club.
"I don't know whether Adam will be here or not, but the club is going in the direction of younger ballplayers, I can tell you that," Duquette said when asked about Jones' future with the club.
Even with the uncertain future, Jones has been the consummate team player throughout the team's transition. He has a strong veteran presence in the clubhouse, and the younger players can turn to him for advice.
Furthermore, he is just as excited as the fans to see how some of these younger players perform in the high-pressure situations of the major leagues.
"It's good, but I think the best thing is for the guys that are going to get the shot here next year and throughout the next month, it's good for them to be here in a big league environment," Jones said entering the final month of the season. "To get the opportunity and see what they can do. At the end of the day, you can say this guy's a prospect or that guy's a prospect.
"The big leagues will tell you if you are going to be good or not. I think this next four weeks will be a good test for a lot of guys to see going forward what they can do in the major leagues. It's exciting as a lot of people get an opportunity. It's good for me as an older guy to see people really grab horns of the opportunity."
Jones has plenty of good baseball ahead of him. He hit his second career grand slam Aug. 29, helping the Orioles earn a 10-5 victory against the Toronto Blue Jays. Jones' previous grand slam came July 28, 2008, against the New York Yankees.
"It's just fun to see him have fun," Orioles starter Alex Cobb said after that game. "He's meant so much to this organization, and for him to go out there and have big moments like that in a season that's kind of lost for us, it's fun to see and fun to be a part of."
Those good times could be coming to an end.
Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox
Issue 247: September 2018
Originally published Sept. 15, 2018