Austin Jones was surrounded by family at a cousin's graduation party when his phone rang. He immediately recognized the number as being from a Chicago Cubs scout.
After leaving the room to take the call, the former Wauwatosa West star returned to inform his family that the Chicago Cubs had drafted him in the 26th round of the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft.
For Jones, the 2013 Wisconsin Baseball Coaches Association and Now Newspapers All-Suburban Player of the Year, being drafted is a significant because of what he's overcome.
'This year was kind of a year for me to get back playing again,' Jones said. 'The draft wasn't really in the forefront of my mind, but everybody was extremely excited. I got a lot of hugs. It was really cool. Everybody was really excited for me.'
After his senior year at Wauwatosa West — in which he posted a 0.80 ERA and struck out 131 batters in 80 innings — Jones quickly became an impact arm for the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.
Jones was named second team All-Midwest Region as a freshman in 2014, going 6-1 with a 2.27 ERA in 19 appearances.
He was making just his second start of the 2015 season against the University of St. Thomas when he suffered a season-ending elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery on April 16, 2015.
Long road back
Exactly a year to date from his surgery, Jones returned to the mound for Whitewater.
'It wasn't easy,' Jones said. 'The hardest thing is just knowing you really can't take anything too fast. It is a very slow process. Everything has to be done by the book. You don't want to have any setbacks. A three-week setback could have meant I missed the entire season of pitching.'
The Warhawks did take it slow with Jones, as he pitched just 7 1/3 innings out of the bullpen before making his first start in the conference tournament.
While progressing slowly on the mound, Jones was also playing almost every game in the outfield for a Warhawks team that advanced to the NCAA Division III World Series.
'It was a whole different side of baseball that I haven't had yet,' Jones said. 'Our coaches were really good about everything. It was a different year, but it was a really fun year.'
Jones ended up with a 4.97 ERA in 12 2/3 innings, numbers inflated by allowing five earned runs without recording an out against the University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse on May 15. He started a regional elimination game for the Warhawks, limiting Washington University-St. Louis to two runs with nine strikeouts in five innings of relief.
As of June 15, the Cubs had yet to make a formal offer to Jones.
Jones is leaning toward returning to Whitewater for his junior season with hopes of increasing his draft stock by pitching a full season.
'I really feel like I'm getting there, but I'm not close to full strength yet,' Jones said. 'I still can get stronger. I still can get my arm strength and endurance back. As of now, I'm leaning toward going back to school, but I'll wait until they make an offer and then decide from there with my family.'
Regardless if he signs or heads back to school, Jones was encouraged by being selected in the 26th round with just a few innings under his belt post-surgery.
'I'm very excited the Cubs saw my arm as promising, and they wanted to recognize it this year,' Jones said. 'It was a dream come true to be drafted, but I also think I still have so much to grow. I've thrown 12 innings in the last 18 months or two years. Now I'm thinking to myself, 'What could a couple of months of really getting on strength training, throwing the right way instead of a rehab process and 50 or 60 innings next year look like?'
'That's kind of where I'm at right now in my thought process.'