“He’s a baseball person.” Erin Jones breaks down barriers as a coach at Sparks High
Sparks High assistant baseball coach Erin Jones dreamed of becoming Major League Baseball’s first female player as a child. Although that dream ended in high school, baseball still holds a special place in his heart.
“The story my mom told me a long time ago was my senior year of baseball, my high school coach at the time in the Bay Area approached my mom and asked if I was going to play in baseball,” Jones said. “She’s, like, ‘Well, yeah. She’s been acting since she was little.’ And he pretty much said he would put me on the team so they wouldn’t be sued, but no matter how good I was, I wouldn’t play an innings on his court. I didn’t even know I played softball until we showed up for tryouts.
Jones was unhappy with the decision, but she made the most of it, eventually becoming a college softball player.
“It was tough,” Jones said. “I don’t think I spoke to my mom for three months. It was like being in a movie. Instead of turning left to go to tryouts at the baseball field, we turned right, and that’s when were the softball fields. I was like, ‘Where are we going?’ And she’s like, ‘Oh, you play softball.’ In fact, she didn’t even tell me what happened with the baseball coach until years later.”
Jones played softball for a year at Sacramento State, coincidentally teammate with future San Francisco Giants assistant coach Alyssa Nakken, before moving to Nevada where she played with the Wolf Pack from 2011-14. in her senior season, she led Nevada in hitting (.377), on-base percentage (.493), and ranked second on the team in hits (43) and walks (26). Jones credits former Nevada softball head coach Josh Taylor as the most influential coach of his career.
“It was honestly the best decision,” Jones said of the move to Nevada. “Everything worked out in the end. It was an amazing experience. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere other than where I am right now. (Taylor) was by far, from the 17 years I played sports, baseball and softball, the best coach I’ve ever had. I really try to emulate the way he coached me in what I bring to these boys, 100%.
Jones worked at Sparks High for two years with the nonprofit Communities In Schools, a national school dropout prevention program. An email sent to staff at Sparks High sparked his interest in baseball coaching.
“About a month after I arrived, I checked my inbox and we got an email from the athletic director that went out to all staff saying, ‘Hey, we need an assistant baseball coach. “”, Jones mentioned. “I’ve read it a couple of times and I’m like, ‘You know what? I can do this. I’ve played before. I played until high school.’ I was like, ‘Let’s give it a try and see how it goes.'”
Jones is one of two varsity-level assistant coaches in baseball in Northern 5A, joining Carol Laube of Galena High, who is in her sixth season with the Grizzlies.
“I don’t even think of Erin as a woman,” Sparks High baseball coach Gregg Shugar said. “It doesn’t even concern me. She’s just a baseball person. She knows so much about the hitting, the field. A long time ago, Rob Hastings said to me, ‘Surround yourself with the best people as a coaches “and Erin is one here.”
Jones said Sparks players have never treated her differently because she is a woman coaching a men’s sport. While they were skeptical last season, they have always respected her for who she is as a coach.
“I think last season they were a bit wary,” Jones said. “It was like, ‘Who is this chick here? What’s her role? What does she know?’ But they’ve always been super respectful. These kids make coaching really easy. They’re respectful, they’re coachable, they’re ready to learn, they go out, they show up every day. I know a lot of coaches say that. and it’s cliché, but it’s so true: you teach these kids things that you hope they take with them for the rest of their lives, whether they play at the next level or not.”
You can watch the feature on Erin Jones below.