Off the Cuff with Claiborne: Jon Jay
Jon Jay’s baseball career may have started with the Cardinals, but his time in St. Louis was just the beginning. After winning a World Series with the Redbirds, he’s played for teams across the country, most recently landing with the Los Angeles Angels. Now, he’s setting his sights on Tokyo and Olympic gold as part of Team USA.
What was it like starting your career in St. Louis?
A lot happened for me when I was drafted. Coming from Miami, we don’t really have a rich history in baseball. Working with the Cardinals, I learned more about the game. It was a history lesson on the fly.
Who are some of your fellow players that made an impact?
There are so many: Daniel Descalso, Chris Carpenter, Yadi, Albert Pujols, Skip Schumaker, Carlos Beltrán, Matt Holliday. I’m the veteran now, but I tell people that while I may be the one talking, they’re getting lessons from 100 different players who have impacted my career and life.
Tell me about your experience as an Olympic qualifier.
It’s been amazing. I really wanted to earn a spot on Team USA. There is a great mix of veterrn players like Edwin Jackson and Marc Rzepczynski and young guys like Jarren Duran and Triston Casas. It’s good to spend time with all of them. Casas is 21 years old, and he told me he saw me play at the University of Miami when he was a kid. It’s an unbelievable opportunity to represent our country in the sport of baseball.
What’s one thing you’ve come to appreciate about St. Louis?
As a father, I try to raise my kids to be the best people they can, and I really value how genuine St. Louisians are. It’s something other players see as well, and they appreciate how they are treated here. Sometimes, other cities and fans can be hostile, but St. Louis is a place where people genuinely care.
What are your must-try restaurants in St. Louis?
I don’t eat a lot Italian food even though I love it, but Paul Manno’s is my spot. I’m also a big fan of Annie Gunn’s, and my favorite breakfast place is Half & Half. I also have to give a shout-out to Simon Lusky at Revel Kitchen.
Do you still maintain your shoe collection?
My collection is doing pretty well. I’ve always had a passion for shoes; I call them my artwork. There’s a story behind every pair, and I pretty much remember how and where I got each one. I’ve been collecting for a long time, but in the last couple of years, the whole shoe market has really boomed.
Your go-to item in your closet.
There’s a big Nike Dunks craze. I’ve skateboarded my whole life, so I was into them before they became popular. I’ve been bringing out some of my Dunk collection because they’re trendy right now.
What fashion trend was not a good look for you?
I want to say everything looks good on me, but looking back at photos when baggier clothes were in, I can see a slimmer fit is better.
What’s the best advice you’ve received?
Don’t talk about it; be about it. I learned in high school that hard work pays off. When I was a freshman, I didn’t make the JV or varsity teams. I realized I had to commit to getting better. I learned that from my grandfather. He was a hard-working man and led by example for me.
Cigar, wine, or bourbon?
I’m Cuban, and every once in a while, I like smoking a nice cigar. When my wife and I go to dinner, I enjoy a nice glass of red for sure.
Favorite toy you have purchased.
My jet ski is my baby. I just feel free when I’m on it, and I have a lot of fun. It’s that or a skateboard. For my whole career, skateboarding has been my way to unwind after games and clear my head.
What is the one thing you’re better at cooking that your wife?
Nothing. She’s better than me at everything. I try to help as much I can, and I cook breakfast every day in the off season. I’m up super early and try to get done with my workouts by 7:30 a.m., so I can be home with the kids, get them up and ready for the day, and make breakfast. It’s kind of our tradition.
So you’re not dangerous in the kitchen.
To some people, I am. I used to have the reputation that if I opened a restaurant, it would be called Crispy’s.