Longtime Astros trainer Jones to retire at season's end

Decision comes at start of 37th year with organization, 22nd with big league club

Longtime Astros trainer Jones to retire at season's end

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- One of the Astros' longest-tenured employees -- and the owner of one of the most recognizable mustaches in baseball -- has decided to call it a career.

Assistant athletic trainer Rex Jones, a fixture in the Astros' dugout for more than two decades and an invaluable presence behind the scenes, will retire at the end of the 2015 season after 37 years with the organization, including 22 with the Major League club.

"It's always hard to figure out when you want to stop something you've been doing for so long," Jones said. "It will be 37 seasons with the Astros, and somewhere along the way, you think about you need to do something besides this summer job, find out what else happens in the world. I have kids that are getting older and have grandbabies, and I felt it was the right time."

Jones, 60, has spent his entire career with the Astros, starting in 1978 with the Class A Daytona Beach club while working towards a bachelor's degree in physical education from Missouri State. He was head trainer for Double-A Columbus from 1979-83 and was promoted to Triple-A Tucson in '83.

From Craig Biggio to Jose Altuve, Jones has seen hundreds of players come through the organization and has witnessed some of the team's most memorable moments. Jones saw Jeff Bagwell win the National League Most Valuable Player Award in 1994; he was there when the club reached the playoffs six times in nine years, culminating with the World Series in 2005; and he had a front-row seat for occasions like Biggio getting 3,000 hits and Altuve winning a batting title last year.

"Going to the World Series has got to be right at the top with all of them," Jones said. "The trade for Randy Johnson [in 1998] was huge, because it turned the city into a baseball town, it showed that we were willing to go out and get someone of that nature, and to watch him perform was incredible. The same thing happened with Roger [Clemens] and Andy Pettitte when they came over, and the quality they bring to the game.

"Right below the World Series was seeing Bagwell win the MVP and Biggio get 3,000 hits. [Biggio] had to work hard to make that happen. I had him in the Minor Leagues and in the Major Leagues, and to see him accomplish that was way more emotional than I thought it was going to be."

All the while, Jones, who was trainer for the NL in the 2004 All-Star Game, was putting in long hours to help make sure the players were healthy enough to stay on the field. He missed only eight games in his 22-year Major League career.

"We've had a very consistent group of athletic trainers in the Minor Leagues and Major Leagues, and that consistency gives us a quality of your job," he said. "We've got guys that have been in the Minor League system for 15, 20 years, and that's a hard life. I spent 16 years in the Minor Leagues, so I know how hard it is. For them to dedicate that much of their time really shows the Astros back them and support and give them the opportunity to their job."

Jones isn't quite sure what the next chapter of his life holds beyond spending more time with his family, which includes his wife of 32 years, Annie, daughters Megan (29) and Laura (23), son Jeremiah (28), a Houston firefighter, and granddaughters Ramey (two years) and Kaley (eight months).

"You get to the point where you don't have a baseball schedule, and then you kind of look and say, 'Oh wow, I can schedule this fishing trip or I can schedule a July 4 barbecue like everybody else,'" he said.

As for the trademark mustache, it stays.

"That's an order from my kids," he said. "They don't want it to go. That's dad. Whether I like it or not, it's part of me and what people recognize."

Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.