His team had just won the 2014 American League East, the Orioles' first division title since 1997, and here was Baltimore centerfielder Adam Jones, a pie in each hand and a determined look on his face, slowly stalking the on-field postgame revelers. He glanced to his left and right, carefully considering who should receive one right in the kisser. Whap! Unsuspecting teammate Nick Markakis, holding his one-year-old son, Toby, got the first pie, and a jubilant fan in the first row of the stands got the second. "I wish I had more," says Jones, who at 29 has won four Gold Glove awards, a Silver Slugger, and has made four All-Star teams. He has also become known as the guy who has taken the time-honored tradition of smashing a pie in a teammates' face after a game to a whole new level.
It all started in 2010. Baltimore was a young club, and Jones and second baseman Robert Andino wanted to celebrate players making their major league debuts by giving them a shaving cream pie to the face. Fast forward four years and now the pie goes to a star player of the game. For example, if a teammate hits a walk-off homer, pitches a shutout, or makes a clutch play, Jones will be waiting.
"I'm amazed how far this has come," he says. "After every postgame, people are blowing my Twitter up for pie, pie, pie this guy. Why aren't you pie-ing? Pie him on the road. Pie anybody. Pie [manager Buck] Showalter. Pie [broadcaster] Gary Thorne."
Jones has rules, though. He won't pie anyone who has been in the majors longer than he has, unless a player is new to the team. "I'm not saying somebody with less time can't get me," explains Jones. "If I'm going to do it, I gotta be able to take it. If anybody pies me, I can't do anything about it but enjoy the pie." Oh, that's another thing. He really can enjoy the pie.
Players complained that the shaving cream burned their eyes, so Baltimore eatery Dangerously Delicious began delivering real pies for the home games last season, just in case someone had a big enough performance to warrant a postgame celebration. Jones's favorite? Banana cream. "They also made me a Reese's Cup pie," says Jones. "It was unreal." Whatever the flavor — peach, chocolate, strawberry, cherry or the Kit Kat pie that Markakis requested — the aim is the same: to have fun and stay loose. "That's how the makeup of our team is," says Jones. "Although we're all grown men, everybody's a big kid."
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It was clear when Jones was a little kid growing up in San Diego that he loved making people laugh — and a good prank. "He's been a jokester for as long as I can remember," says his cousin Adrian Limbrick, 31. "He used to run a lot. His socks and shoes used to smell so bad. Whoever would go to sleep first would usually get the socks up under the nose."
When he was 12, Jones became serious about baseball, tuning into the Padres' games night after night, even watching reruns and reviews of games he had already seen. And always with a bat, a ball, and a glove nearby. "Say he was just in the room watching the game," recalls Limbrick. "He'd be throwing the ball in the glove. A little bit later, he'd be aiming the bat like he was taking a cut."
He became a standout on coach Robert Hubbard's travel youth baseball team, the San Diego Redwings, and on top of the talent Jones showed in the field (he played shortstop and worked his way up to a 96-mph fastball), what struck Hubbard was young Adam's communication and people skills. "He got along with every kid on our team," says Hubbard.
The Seattle Mariners selected Jones with their top pick in the first round of the 2003 draft, when he was a 17-year-old senior at Morse High. His government teacher, who was following the draft online, let him leave class to answer his cellphone when the team called. Though former Padres great Tony Gwynn tried to woo Jones to play for him at San Diego State, Jones signed with the Mariners that summer, and they first brought him up to the majors in July '06. After playing 73 games in the big leagues, he was traded to the Orioles in '08. Since then, his career has taken off.
In 2014, Jones led AL centerfielders in games played (159) and was fifth in putouts (374). He hit .281 with 29 homers and 96 RBIs. And he's created a local "mini phenomenon" (as he calls it) with the phrase Stay Hungry, which he first tweeted early in 2012. "I was saying as a team, as a city, as a fan base, stay after the prize. It's a long season. Keep after it," says Jones. "People don't even say 'Adam' anymore. They just say 'Stay Hungry' to me."
Jones often posts pictures of food on Instagram (#StayHungry). His Twitter feed includes a photo of him and his dog, Missy, digging into either end of a pie at Dangerously Delicious during a calendar shoot to raise money for the Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter. ("It made sense to take my hungry dog to the place where all the pies are," says Jones. "She was into it.")
On the field Jones, is, well, still hungry, maintaining that his game is a work in progress. "I think I've had some success based on ability, but I think I can get better mentally and emotionally," he concedes, before adding: "I need to win a ring." And after the Orioles wins their first World Series in more than three decades? "I want Dangerously Delicious to make a six-foot pie and pie the heck out of me, with a big parade going all throughout Baltimore."
Photos: Charles LeClaire/USA Today Sports (top), Rob Carr/Getty Images (2), Patrick Smith/Getty Images (Flaherty), Kevin Dietsch (Jones getting pied)