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Watauga's Ryder Jones eyes big-league return with Knights

The local product played Major League Baseball with the Giants before a freak knee injury.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — At batting practice earlier this week, Charlotte Knights infielder Ryder Jones brought a big, blue, foam pad with him into the batting cage.

With each swing, the lefthanded hitter made sure he kept his feet behind the pad.

"Just trying not to close off, keep my body, keep my spacing," Jones said. "I have super long arms so sometimes I lean over a little too much and get in the way of myself, so just trying to stay open ... I just feel like a lot of teams are throwing me a lot of off-speed and a lot of away, so I'm just trying to stay upright. That's just kind of a cue to stay upright."

Baseball is a game of adjustments, and no one knows that more than Jones. 

But one nice adjustment recently has been being close to his former home in Boone this season.

"I have some buddies that I went to high school with at Watauga, so they'll come down and watch a game -- that's nice, I've never really had that," Jones said. "I've played in a lot of Triple-A parks, and I would say here and Vegas' new stadium are probably top two in the country."

Jones has played in many parks across a 10-year pro career, but he'd love to get back to a major league stadium soon.

"That's the goal," he said. "That's the goal for everybody here."

Jones was a second-round pick of the San Francisco Giants in 2013 out of Watauga High School.

He made his MLB debut at 22 in 2017.

He struggled through 53 games, but the next year had a pair of homers through his first 8 trips to the plate.

That's when a freak injury derailed his career.

"I literally went to take a swing, and my cleat got stuck in the dirt, and my kneecap kept rotating and my kneecap literally popped out," Jones said. "My kneecap was on the side of my leg."

Jones had two surgeries to fix the injury but was Designated for Assignment by the Giants.

With no Minor League Baseball in 2020, Jones played independent ball for the Sugar Land Skeeters.

After that, he bounced around the Boston Red Sox and Arizona Diamondbacks organizations.

But this offseason the Chicago White Sox signed him to a minor league deal, and he's seeing the ball well.

Through 25 games, Jones had four home runs, two doubles, 10 walks and 17 RBI.

"I've been through a lot," he said. "I feel really good right now and I'm hoping I can help the White Sox at some point this season."