Survive and thrive - Daryl Jones has gained an appreciation for both as he prepares for his fifth season in the St. Louis Cardinals farm system.
Still a little more than two months away from his 22nd birthday, Jones spent two uneventful seasons playing for the Swing of the Quad-Cities in 2006 and 2007 but he has made what he learned here work for him.
Jones was selected as the 2008 minor league player of the year in the Cardinals organization after after a .326 start at high-A Palm Beach with a .290 effort at the plate during the final weeks of the season with Double-A Springfield.
Last Thursday, St. Louis' third-round choice in the 2005 draft got a taste of what could lie ahead.
Called up to play for the major-league club in its final spring training game in Florida, Jones led off the ninth inning with a double, took third on a fly out and used his speed to score the game-tying run in an exhibition with the Marlins.
Sunday he was back in the Quad-Cities, penciled into the second spot in the Springfield lineup for an exhibition game with the River Bandits that was canceled because of wet grounds.
That didn't bother the outfielder from Spring, Texas, who welcomed the opportunity to return to a ballpark where he hit .235 in 2006 before enduring a .217 season in 127 games the next year for Quad-Cities.
"This level tested me, but I'm stronger now because of it," Jones said. "Playing a full season for the first time tests every player. It tests your mind and your body but as long as you make that experience work for you, you give yourself a chance."
With the Cardinals organization well stocked with outfielders, Jones anticipated returning to Springfield this season.
He said he welcomes the chance to play every day in manager Pop Warner's lineup and continues to search for the consistency he hopes will one day lead to a major-league opportunity.
"I'm still 21. I've got time, and I know my time is coming," Jones said. "It was great to have a chance to showcase my abilities in big-league camp. That was a great experience, to be around those guys and to watch them as they went about things from one day to the next."
Jones' approach hasn't changed from the one that allowed him to move up the ladder after playing 153 games in the Midwest League.
"At the end of every day, after every game, I still look back at what happened and dissect why," Jones said. "I look for that negative and determine what I need to do to turn it into a positive. If I strike out a couple of times, I try to figure out why and learn from the situation."
Jones said the players currently on the River Bandits roster can expect to deal with many of the same challenges he faced during his first full-season experience in 2007.
"It's natural, but at the end of the day, are you leaving the clubhouse better than you were the day before? I could have let my struggles here eat me alive, but I didn't," Jones said. "I got better because of what I experienced here. That's part of the process, striving for that consistency, and how I dealt with challenges makes me more consistent now."
Bandits exhibition canceled
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Morning sleet and rain left the playing surface at Modern Woodmen Park unplayable on Sunday, forcing the cancellation of the exhibition game between the Quad-Cities River Bandits and the Springfield Cardinals, the Double-A affiliate of the Bandits' parent club, St. Louis.
Fans who did show up at the ballpark had a chance to snap photos and collect autographs from the Springfield players in the visitor's dugout.
The Cardinals roster includes 24 players who previously played in Quad-Cities, including 2008 Cardinals minor league player of the year Daryl Jones and first-round draft picks Brett Wallace and Tyler Herron. Most spent more than an hour mingling with fans and renewing acquaintances.
"One of the reasons we wanted to do the exhibition was to give people here a chance to see the guys again who have worked their way up the system," St. Louis director of minor league operations John Vuch said.
"Four or five years ago, it would have been rare for our Double-A club to have this many players from within the organization. The developmental system is working the way it should."
Sunday's exhibition will not be made up. Fans who purchased tickets for the game can exchange them for admission to any Quad-Cities home game during the 2009 season.