IDAHO FALLS – Eliot Jones has been in love with the game of baseball for as long as he can remember.
The 19-year-old from Idaho Falls is the centerfielder for the Idaho Falls Bandits, who will be advancing to the World Series Championship for the third year in a row after beating Massachusetts 5-4 Monday.
Eliot, whose mom passed away earlier this year after a four-year battle with colon cancer, has a special reason for playing this year. He and his teammates are dedicating the entire week of American Legion Baseball to Eliot’s mom, Kiris.
In a conversation with EastIdahoNews.com, Eliot spoke of his love for the game and recounted his mom’s journey over the last several years.
“I must’ve been like 4 or 5 when I started playing baseball,” says Jones. “Both of my older brothers played, and that’s probably what got me into it. I just continued to play, and my dad was my coach growing up, so he’s probably why I developed my love for the game.”
His mom’s battle with cancer began in 2018. Eliot says his family’s life changed forever when they learned she had been diagnosed with stage two colon cancer.
Kiris, a mother of six children, went through chemotherapy and treatments until she was told by her doctors that she had beaten her cancer and was finally in remission.
“She ended up beating it, which is what we thought. Then a little less than a year later, she started feeling sick again and decided she should go get checked out again to make sure everything was alright,” says Eliot. “They found that the cancer had come back and had spread throughout her body even worse, in her brain and other places. At that point, it was terminal stage 4, and it was something that she was going to die from.”
The doctors told the Jones family that their mother could live 20 more years, or be gone in a week. Not knowing how much time she had left was the toughest part of the diagnosis for Eliot.
About a week before Kiris passed, Eliot was playing his first baseball game of the season. His father told him he wasn’t going to be able to make it to the game, which was a normal occurrence since his mother’s diagnosis.
When Eliot returned home from the game, he discovered that his mother had made the difficult decision to discontinue her chemotherapy treatment, meaning that her time on earth was “winding down.” That’s when she was put on hospice.
Kiris passed away six days later, at the age of 58.
In the months since her death, Eliot’s realized some of the things he’s struggled with in the past aren’t as big of a deal. His mother’s triumphs and sacrifices in her final days are inspiring to him.
This season, his devotion to the game is a representation of his love and dedication to his mother. Eliot feels that kind of focus had made him a better player and a better person.
“It should be something that I’m doing for my mom, and I should be playing for something bigger than myself,” says Eliot. “It’s times like this where I wish I had my mom with me.”
One of Eliot’s lifelong friends, and fellow Bandit teammate, Nate Ross, started a fundraiser in honor of Eliot’s mother to raise money for patches with Kiris’ initials to put on the team’s jerseys while they’re out on the field.
The Bandits have won the past two American Legion Baseball World Series championships, which Kiris was not able to attend. This year, Eliot is hoping for another shot at victory where he believes his mom will be sitting in the front row.
“This year, in my eyes, she gets a front row seat to all of these games. Every time I take the field, I think that she’s watching and that always comforts me,” says Eliot. “On such a big stage like this, it’s a really nice comfort to have.”
The Bandits will be facing off with Alabama Tuesday at 5 p.m. It will be streamed live on the American Legion Baseball app.