RANCHO CUCAMONGA — Todd Hogan scouts Atlanta, among other places, for the Angels.
He had been sending the home office rave reviews on an outfielder named Jahmai Jones.
Now Ric Wilson, the scouting director, showed up at Wesleyan High for two games, to take a look.
What happened next was the equivalent of spilling coffee all over the boss’ cellphone during the job interview. Almost.
“The first five times Jahmai comes up, he strikes out,” Hogan said. “You can imagine how I’m feeling. But all along Jahmai never has his head down, always runs hard to the outfield, picks up the bats for the other players.
“Finally, Jahmai hits an opposite-field home run to right field. Then he hits a home run to left that might have been the longest one I saw all year. So we felt a little better after that.”
That was in 2015. The Angels’ farm system was as barren as Zzyzx Road.
They took Jones with the 70th pick, deep into the second round. He is in the High-A California League, playing for Inland Empire, a 20-year-old as of Aug. 4.
The Angels’ hopes for Jones are somewhere north of Jupiter. They are starving for a homegrown star. Now Jones is visible to the naked eye, and to the wishful mind. So far he has kept every promise.
“It’s not just the player,” Hogan said. “Everything about him is as good as gold.”
But it’s the player, too. Jones had 48 hits in his first 34 games in the Cal League and a .940 OPS, with five home runs. He had trouble starting 2017 in the chill of Burlington (Iowa), in the low-A Midwest League, but he was hitting .272 with nine homers when he was promoted.
He has 27 steals this season, as he did last season. He is learning the routes and angles of center field.
The Inland Empire manager is Chad Tracy, son of former Dodgers manager Jim. He could rein in all this organizational ambition for Jones. He doesn’t.
“He’s got a lot of energy on the field,” Tracy said. “Very emotional. He’s always clapping. He runs hard all…