The end of an adventure: Patetown native Kevin Jones recalls ultimate road trip
By Rob Craig
Published in Sports on November 8, 2006 1:47 PM
For six months, Kevin Jones lived his ultimate dream.
The Patetown native followed his beloved New York Yankees all over country. He took in all 162 of their regular-season games, visited 17 different ballparks, and rubbed elbows with today's heroes and yesterday's legends.
He lived like a celebrity -- and he did it all for free.
It was glorious ... and fleeting.
"From the beginning, I knew it was going to be a short-lived thing," said Jones, 36, who was one of four die-hard Yankee fans selected to participate in the YES Network's reality show, "Ultimate Road Trip: Season 2."
"I knew I was never going to have another opportunity quite like this again, so I went into it determined to savor every moment and enjoy the trip -- and I did that."
It was a 1,500-inning odyssey -- and then some.
On the show, he was known as K.J., a stat junkie from the South. Now that the road trip is over, he's back to being Kevin, the insurance agent.
And he's already thinking about next season.
"I believe the Yankees will be back in business again next year, and I plan on taking a couple road trips of my own," he said with a smile.
In the meantime, it's his offseason. After all, six-month road trips can be draining.
"Yeah, you get tired a little bit, but we love the team, the trips and the hotel stays," Jones said. "You really gain an appreciation of what the players go through on a daily basis."
Jones had the very unique perspective to see not only what a fan witnesses in the bleachers, but also what players and coaches go through on a game-by-game basis.
"I've always been like a lot of fans where I wear my heart on my sleeve," Jones said. "If your team wins you're really up, but if your team loses you're really down. You really gain an appreciation that you have to keep an even keel and not get too high after the wins or too low after the losses. You have to be ready to wipe the slate clean the next day."
If watching every single Yankee game wasn't exciting enough, Jones also had the opportunity to chat with many current and past Yankee stars.
K.J. met current Yankee All-Stars Derek Jeter, Jason Giambi, Bernie Williams and Mariano Rivera as well as former Yankee greats like Yogi Berra, Goose Gossage, Reggie Jackson, Graig Nettles, Don Mattingly, Don Larsen, Bobby Murcer and Mickey Rivers.
"Jason Giambi was my favorite of all the Yankees," said Jones. "He was a gentle giant, always very accommodating."
Of course, there was more to the trip than baseball. Jones was able to go skydiving, play football at Texas Stadium -- home of the Dallas Cowboys -- and live in an upscale apartment in New York City.
Souvenirs K.J. took home included jerseys, autographs, photos and -- the biggest prize of all -- an all-expense paid trip to Japan by winning a variety of challenges on the show throughout the season.
Sometime in 2007, Jones will fly to Japan thanks to his performance in challenges that included classic sports such as wiffleball, basketball, football, hockey, along with sports K.J. wasn't as familiar with such as cricket, lacrosse, candle pin bowling, archery, fencing, sailing, kayaking, curling, soccer and even riding a mechanical bull for a challenge-winning 8.1 seconds.
"They all joked that because of me being a Southerner, I had an unfair advantage at the mechanical bull, as if we have mechanical bulls everywhere we go down here," K.J. laughed.
Jones came in first or second in each challenge, which allowed him to hit the magic 26-point mark -- the number of World Series titles the Yankees have won -- and bring home the top prize.
Dealing with the challenges of the competition wasn't the only obstacle K.J. faced.
He also dealt with the constant scrutiny of being on camera.
"You learn a lot from being under a microscope," Jones said. "You don't have the freedom that you do anywhere else with the cameras."
As Jones reflected on the past six months, he recalled his favorite memory of the season -- when the Yankees swept the archrival Red Sox in Boston during a key five-game series in August.
"To go in there and win five games when the division was in doubt, and then that Monday, it was like a morgue walking out of Fenway Park," Jones said. "From there, the division was over."
The season, however, would finish on a sour note as the Yankees lost to the Detroit Tigers in the American League Division Series.
"We were excited, we thought we'd just roll over the Tigers," Jones said. "It was a disappointment, but that's baseball. You just never know who's going to get hot at the right time."
After following the Yankees so closely, Jones offered his own theory on the postseason flop.
"Gary Sheffield and Hideki Matsui coming back may have actually hurt the Yankees," he said. "It seemed as if they played with more chemistry previous to their returns, and it was if that chemistry was broken up. The Yankees need a few more role players, guys who can bunt and move runners along."
At the end of the season, Jones admitted he battled some mixed emotions. He the compared the experience to a summer at camp.
"I was a little sad, not only for the loss, but for a chapter in your life coming to an end," Jones said. "There was a little sadness, but at the same time, a little of hey, I'm ready to move on and do something else. After all is said and done, and the memory fades as time goes by, the thing that I'll take most from this is the people. I met a lot of really good people through this."
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