Jones, who will turn 29 in June, took the long way to success in the big leagues, playing 1,038 games over 11 seasons in the minor leagues before entrenching himself in the majors as the Pirates' right fielder last year. Other than a 31-game cameo with the Twins in 2007, Jones hadn't played at the highest level at all until 2009.
Better late than never, apparently. He hit and hit and hit in 82 games with Pittsburgh, posting a .293 average and a .372 on-base percentage with 21 home runs and 44 RBI, numbers that would have made him more of a revelation if he played in, say, Flushing instead of on the banks of the Allegheny River.
"To get a second chance to get called up to the majors and be in the lineup every day felt great, and I was just trying to enjoy every moment," Jones told FanHouse last week when asked to reflect on his banner half-season.
"There's still something to improve upon," he insisted.
The Pirates, mired in a streak of losing seasons that stretches back to the George H.W. Bush presidency, don't need him to be even better. They would take Jones' '09 production stretched out over a full season in a heartbeat. That projects out to 41 home runs and 87 RBI, numbers that would make him one of the best hitters in the National League and the first Pirate hitter to cross the 40-homer threshold since Willie Stargell in 1973.
But given that Jones came out of nowhere to impress as a 28-year-old for one of the most downtrodden franchises in the sport, there's -- ahem -- healthy skepticism that he'll be able to come anywhere close to that now that he's suddenly a major league regular.
"It's easy in general in this game to label guys with a term you hear a lot -- 'Well, he's a good 4-A player,'" Pirates hitting coach Don Long said. "[Garrett's] achieved some things because he's persistent, because he's a hard worker and because he has talent.
"It's not like you woke up one day after 10 years of playing minor-league ball and all of a sudden you got a different ability level."
Translation: The talent has always been there for Jones to be a productive big leaguer, it's just been a matter of drawing it out of him.
The Pirates, in that respect, are at the root of his breakout, both for things well within their grasp and far beyond their reach.
This is Jones' third organization, with the Braves and Twins preceding Pittsburgh as stops on his journey. Needless to say, it's a lot easier to get a shot at regular playing time -- to be allowed to work kinks out in the big leagues -- with the Pirates than it is with Atlanta and Minnesota, two teams that have contended for much of the last decade.
"I think that's the good thing about our organization," Long said. "Whether a guy's coming up from within or a guy's acquired from outside, we really try and look at the guy for how we see him.
"We try to envision what he can become."
And what he and the Pirates saw was a hitter with tremendous power potential -- "He opened up some eyes," Long said, describing his pop last spring training, his first with Pittsburgh -- but one who needed to make changes to unleash it.
"You get a fresh set of eyes toward somebody and you see a big strong, physical, athletic person, you can dream on him a little bit," Long said.
So, dream in mind, he set out to get Jones to loosen up -- literally. The right fielder's biggest problem -- the one that limited him to a .258/.312/.450 (AVG/OBP/SLG) line in the minors -- wasn't a swing with a big hole or one that was too long, it was that he was too stiff at the plate.
"He was very rigid before, straight-legged, standing real tall with his upper half, and not really in the action from the start," Long said. "He'd kinda have to fall over with his top half to get into a position where he could feel like he was on the pitch, so we just tried to get him ... flexing his legs and bring his head ... chin over belt, so he was not so erect with his top half.
"[Once he did that], he was in the action with his head and his eyes from the start ... into a position where he can hit it hard."
From there, it was just a matter of time. Jones hit at Triple-A Indianapolis like he had only once before in his career (with Double-A New Britain in 2004), and the Pirates called him up to the big club for good on July 1.
"The next thing you know, you look up, he's played 19 games and he has 10 home runs," Long said, recalling Jones' hot start.
Greater challenges lie ahead. Jones must deal with constant push-pull between hitters and pitchers; as soon as he adjusts to the guys trying to get him out, they'll find a new way to exploit his weaknesses (and so on, until the end of time). Long said Jones already went through one round of that last season, "regrouping" over the final month after his first circuit through the league. Both he and his hitting coach say he must improve his at-bat to at-bat consistency and hitting with two strikes.
But more than a decade after he was drafted, the Pirates seem to believe Jones' emergence is real, or at least mostly so.
"It's a little different mindset," he said of coming into 2010 as a starter, "not [being] too worried about the results and having to prove yourself and show what you can do in a short amount of time."
Of course, it won't be easy for Jones, a 14th-round draft pick in 1999, to forget just how far he has come or to turn off the survival instincts that kept him working toward the majors year after year after year.
"He's very driven to improve," Long said. "He's at times hard on himself to the point where you want to bring him back and remind him of his successes.
"It takes tremendous perseverance to get that close for so many years. That's a tough battle to fight because you get to the point where you wonder if that opportunity is ever really going to come.
"Obviously he has that [perseverance] within him."
Seems like it was worth all the trouble.