Jackie's legacy carries from field to front office
Nats VP Jones credits Robinson for motivation to pursue role
WASHINGTON -- If he were alive, Jackie Robinson would be proud of Damon Jones.
No, Jones never played Major League Baseball, but he currently has an impact on the game.
Jones is vice president and general counsel of the Nationals. He is responsible for all legal affairs with the club, including contracts and other matters related to both the business operations and baseball operations. Jones also handles salary arbitration cases.
"I feel fortunate to have the success I've had in the game," said Jones, who joined the Nationals in July 2007. "It allows me to combine my passions for baseball and the law and use my talents in an area that is fascinating to me. I don't know if I ever thought it would be this way. So I feel very grateful that it has.
"When I was in college, I wanted to be a big league ball player, but I had some problems staying on the field. I started to look at other careers in and around the game and just sort of worked my way up."
It is obvious that Jones loves his job with Nationals. It helps that he has a love for baseball, which came from his father.
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"I've loved baseball since I was a small boy," Jones said. "My father is an avid baseball fan. Baseball is in our family. His mother had seven brothers and they formed their own traveling baseball team in Kentucky. So [the love of baseball] carried on through generations. I played all the through college. I'm just a baseball guy."
It wasn't only his love for the game that made Jones successful. Like Robinson, Jones worked hard and found that determination to succeed while attending Harvard Law School. For example, as an intern during law school, Jones worked for Reich, Katz and Landis, a large baseball agency, and that's when he knew he wanted a career in the sport.
"That was when the light came on for me that I could really make a career inside the game -- off the field -- when I learned the inner workings of the business of baseball," Jones said. "I learned that the business is complex. Baseball is big business, but it's also fascinating. That's when I started to learn about player contracts, the Collective Bargaining Agreement, Major League rules, salary arbitration and all those pieces of the business of baseball that are interesting."
After graduating cum laude from Harvard Law school, Jones practiced at the law firm of Williams and Connolly, LLP, in Washington, D.C. While at the firm, his practice included complex litigation as well as transactional and general business representation of high-profile individuals, including baseball and basketballs players and members of the media.
One can tell that Jones has an admiration for Robinson, who was the first to break baseball's color barrier and bring the Negro League's electrifying style of play to the big leagues in 1947. Robinson quickly became one of the game's top draws, most daring runners and a symbol of hope to millions of Americans. The Brooklyn Dodgers won six National League pennants in Robinson's 10 seasons, including the 1949 season, when he won the NL Most Valuable Player Award. Robinson was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962.
Asked how Robinson would react to his success in baseball, Jones said, "I think he would be proud in some small way, perhaps, especially given that I work in baseball. Jackie Robinson was an American icon and a great civil rights pioneer. What he did obviously changed the country and -- in some ways -- changed the world.
"It wasn't just about getting African American players on the field in Major League Baseball. It was about changing the attitudes and standards of society and opening doors -- creating opportunities for African Americans and others who face discrimination."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.