Heartbreak at Reds Legends camp

A.J. Jones had a Semper Fi plan.

The 2019 Warren High School and Washington County Career Center grad wanted to serve his country, and was scheduled to join the U.S. Marine Corps.

“He was supposed to leave in October for boot camp, but I believe he was leaving two months early in August,” said Mike Wagner, the Cincinnati Reds Legends camp director. “He was all pumped up about it.”

During the school year at the Career Center, where he studied Electrical Trades, Jones approached a Marine recruiter and declared his intentions. According to Wagner, the recruiter was somewhat amused, because Jones was…well, he was a big kid.

Even so, Jones was not discouraged.

“He was really overweight,” Wagner said. “But you know what, A.J. went out, exercised, and lost 100 pounds.

“He then passed an extensive physical to go to the Marines. The recruiter said that nobody in the history of their office had ever been that determined to be a Marine.”

The 18-year-old Jones graduated Friday, May 24, at the Dyson Baudo Recreation Center on the Marietta College campus. On one of the student mortarboard caps, it read, “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”

As one of a dozen Warren students enlisted in the military, Jones could’ve seconded that.

Jones, who loved baseball, was a familiar face at the annual Reds clinic.

“He’s been here every year since 2007,” Wagner said.

But a week before the start of this June’s 3-day event, Jones became ill and had to go to the emergency room. After blood work, he was life flighted to Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus.

“Apparently, A.J. had a form of leukemia or something,” Wagner said. “They could’ve treated leukemia, because when we heard about it, he was going to be up there for six weeks and miss the camp. But when he got there, he had a stroke on the elevator going up.”

Jones tragically passed away the following day.

“The doctors, they don’t know what the answer is,” Wagner said. “They said that this happens to people, and it’s just something that triggers in your body.”

Jones was buried at East Lawn Memorial Park last Saturday, two days before the start of the 26th annual Reds Legends camp.

This past Tuesday was an emotional day at the clinic as Jones’ parents — Bob and Tracy Jones — were on hand to receive for their son the annual Roy Ellis “Tink” Wagner Memorial Scholarship Award.

“We’re just so heart-broken,” Mike Wagner said.

Ron Johnston is a Marietta Times sports writer and can be reached at rjohnston@mariettatimes.com

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