Ross Jones enters his sixth season at the University of Florida and serves as the team’s pitching coach and recruiting coordinator. A former assistant coach at the University of North Florida and Vanderbilt University for nine years, he joined the Gator staff when head coach Pat McMahon was hired in June 2001. Jones has played a major role in the squad advancing to NCAA Regionals four times in five years, highlighted by a second-place performance at the NCAA College World Series and the Southeastern Conference championship in 2005.
As the recruiting coordinator for the Gators, Jones has helped sign some of the most talented players from not only the Southeast, but across the nation. Florida's 2007 recruiting class was rated the third-best in the country by Collegiate Baseball newspaper and sixth by Baseball America, giving the Orange and Blue three top-10 classes in the past four years. The 2006 class was tabbed as the 10th-best by Collegiate Baseball and the 2004 haul was third in the nation after inking the 15th-ranked class in his debut season at Florida.
Jones joined the Gator baseball program possessing nine years of collegiate coaching experience. He spent a total of three seasons in two separate stints at the University of North Florida (1993 and 2000-01) and six seasons as the pitching/recruiting coordinator at fellow Southeastern Conference member Vanderbilt between 1994 and 1999.
Since arriving at Florida, Jones has helped tutor eight pitchers who have been taken in the Major League Baseball Amateur Draft. In 2004, right-hander Justin Hoyman became the school’s first SEC Pitcher of the Year and earned All-America accolades from seven different organizations. The junior compiled an 11-2 mark and registered a 2.71 earned run average. Two of the standouts from the 2005 squad, Connor Falkenbach and Alan Horne, were drafted and signed professional contracts with the Toronto Blue Jays and New York Yankees, respectively.
Last season, Jones directed the development of sophomore right-hander Bryan Augenstein, a second-team All-SEC pick and a member of the 2006 USA Baseball National Team. It marked the third-consecutive year that a Florida pitcher had earned all-league honors, following Hoyman (first team in 2004) and Falkenbach (second team in 2005). Augenstein anchored UF's pitching staff with a 9-6 record and a 3.07 ERA and limited opponents to a .241 batting average. Two of Jones' pupils, Bryan Ball and Darren O'Day, completed their collegiate eligibility and moved onto the professional ranks with the Seattle Mariners and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim organizations.
Jones oversaw a Gator pitching staff in 2005 that boasted a 3.43 ERA during the NCAA Tournament, featuring sweeps of the Regional and Super Regional rounds held at McKethan Stadium. Second-team All-SEC performer Falkenbach set an NCAA record with 51 appearances and was third in the conference with nine saves, while O'Day was among the league leaders with a team-low 2.87 ERA and seven saves. Horne (10-2) captured his final nine decisions of the campaign and was 3-0 in NCAA action, while Tommy Boss (9-4) was also an unblemished 3-0 in June and fired complete-games against North Carolina and Florida State before tossing 5.2 scoreless innings against Arizona State to help UF reach the championship round of the College World Series for the first time.
In 2004, the Gators eclipsed the school record for fewest walks per game (2.17) for the third-straight year and the staff’s ERA of 3.96 was its lowest since 1992 (3.34). Although a youthful Gator pitching staff returned less than 15 percent of the innings pitched prior to the 2003 campaign, Jones’ tutelage resulted in a 4.39 ERA and a new standard of 2.34 walks per game. The duo of Hoyman (11-2) and Falkenbach (10-7) notched double-digit wins, marking the second time in three years the Gators had two pitchers with 10 or more triumphs.
During his first season, Jones molded a staff that had ranked 11th in the league the previous year and oversaw an improvement of surrendering one-and-a-half fewer runs per game. In conference activity, the Gator staff boasted a 4.16 ERA, vaulting it to third in the SEC. UF led the league in opponent batting average (.263), was third in saves (16) and fourth in strikeouts (441). Jones’ assistance helped Alex Hart (13-3, 3.24 ERA) achieve All-America acclaim and was a driving force behind Keith Ramsey finishing 10-3 with a 3.88 ERA. The tandem became the first Gator duo to accumulate double-digit victories in the same season since the feat was accomplished in 1991 by Marc Valdes (13) and Ron Scott (10).
In his two seasons as an assistant on head coach Dusty Rhodes’ staff, Jones helped lead North Florida to a 96-31 (.756) record, back-to-back appearances at the NCAA Division II College World Series and a couple of Peach Belt Conference titles. The 2000 UNF club finished 49-14, maintained the No. 1 ranking for 10 consecutive weeks, posted a 3.67 team ERA, claimed the Peach Belt hardware with a 26-4 conference record and placed third at the CWS.
The following year, Jones helped direct the Ospreys to a 47-17 record, its third straight Peach Belt crown and 3.99 staff ERA. The squad's ace, Todd Ewasko, went 15-1 with a 2.10 ERA on his way to the Division II National Pitcher of the Year recognition. Three of his pitchers earned a total of four All-America honors, while two were drafted and signed professional contracts. One of Jones' pupils, Mike Wood, later became a member of the Kansas City Royals' starting rotation and is now with the Texas Rangers.
Jones began his collegiate coaching career when he moved to the University of North Florida as an assistant coach in 1993. That squad spent more than six weeks ranked atop the NCAA Division II polls. Two years earlier, his coaching career started at Crescent City (Fla.) High School, where he was as an assistant under head coach Al Pound.
Following his time in Jacksonville, Jones headed north to Vanderbilt, where he served as the assistant head coach (pitching coach/recruiting coordinator) for six seasons from 1994-99. During his tenure with the Commodores, Jones established himself as one of the nation’s top recruiters, as three of his recruiting classes earned national honors, culminating with the 1998 contingent that earned a No. 16 ranking by Collegiate Baseball.
In all, Jones has tutored 32 pitchers who have been selected in the MLB Amateur Draft, including Clinton Johnston, the Pittsburgh Pirates’ No. 1 draft pick (15th overall selection) in 1998. During his coaching career, Jones has mentored five hurlers who have reached the Major Leagues.
Upon graduating from Palatka High School in 1984, Jones was drafted by the Texas Rangers. He spent a combined seven years in the Rangers and Montreal Expos’ minor league organizations before embarking on his coaching career. He played four years in the Texas organization before being traded to Montreal in 1987. He spent the following season with the Expos’ AA Southern League affiliate in Jacksonville.
A requested speaker on pitching at various baseball clinics across the country, Jones earned a bachelor’s degree in physical education from North Florida in 1993. He had previously been a 1991 recipient of an associate of arts degree from St. John’s River (Fla.) Community College.
Jones, a 40-year-old native of Palatka, Fla., is married to the former Stephanie Lynn Nalley, a fellow Palatka native. The couple has two sons, Tyler, 15, and Hunter, 12.
THE ROSS JONES FILE
Birthdate: August 1, 1966
Hometown: Palatka, Fla.
Education: Bachelor of Science – Physical Education, University of North Florida, 1993; Associate of Arts – St. John’s River (Fla.) Community College, 1991
Assistant Baseball Coach, Crescent City High School, 1991-92
Assistant Coach/Pitching, University of North Florida, 1993
Assistant Head Coach/Pitching/Recruiting Coordinator, Vanderbilt University, 1994-99
Assistant Head Coach, University of North Florida, 2000-01
Assistant Coach, University of Florida, 2001-present
- Four NCAA appearances, back-to-back Super Regional berths and one trip to the College World Series at Florida
- Four of his Florida recruiting classes have been listed among the top 15, including third-rated classes in 2003 and 2007
- Has coached 32 pitchers who have been drafted by Major League Baseball
- Coached Todd Ewasko, the 2001 Division II National Pitcher of the Year, at North Florida
- Helped lead UNF to back-to-back NCAA Division II College World Series appearances and Peach Belt Conference titles
Retired from professional baseball in 1991 … Played with the Jacksonville Expos of the Southern League in 1988 … Ranked among the top 10 in several categories, including earned run average, innings pitched and strikeouts … Traded from the Texas Rangers to the Montreal Expos in 1988 … Played under current San Francisco Giants manager Felipe Alou and alongside teammates Delino DeShields, Marquis Grissom Randy Johnson and Larry Walker … Played four-and-a-half years in the Texas Rangers’ minor league system, where he was named as the organization's Pitcher of the Month three times and South Atlantic League Pitcher of the Month twice during the 1987 campaign … Played with several future Major League stars, including Kevin Brown, Juan Gonzalez, Dean Palmer and Sammy Sosa … Drafted by the Rangers straight out of high school in June 1984 … Attended Palatka High School.