Life without Chipper Jones seems unimaginable. The Hall-of-Fame bound third baseman — who has manned the hot corner at Turner Field for nearly two decades — isn't just an Atlanta Brave. He defines the Atlanta Braves.
For all intents and purposes, the player and the team are one in the same. As one rival player succinctly stated to CL for this piece, "If you think of the Atlanta Braves, you think of Chipper Jones." For nearly two decades, that couldn't be more accurate.
Life without the face of the Braves' franchise, however, remains inevitable. Sometime during the next month — depending on the length of their playoff run — Larry Wayne Jones Jr., will play his last game as the Atlanta Braves' third baseman. After 19 years in the majors, number 10 will hang up his jersey entirely on his own terms.
As an integral part of the Braves' dynasty, Jones helped lead the organization to the 1995 World Series title and 11 straight division titles from 1995-2005. Along the way, Jones earned numerous accolades for his performance — eight All-Star appearances, two Silver Slugger honors, the NL MVP award in 1999 and the NL batting title in 2008 — as well as compiled his fair share of extraordinary numbers [see By the Numbers sidebar].
CL talked to more than 20 people — including his friends, current teammates, former peers, coaches, front office members, broadcasters, writers, and opposing players — who helped piece together an oral history depicting the life and times of Chipper Jones. While individuals have varying perspectives, they all agreed with an unwavering conviction that when Chipper retires, he leaves behind a void that few, if any, will ever fill.
Draft and Minors
John Schuerholz (Braves General Manager, 1990-2007; President, 2007-Present): When I first joined the organization, he had already been drafted prior to me getting here ... Bobby, Paul Snyder, and other scouts, Tony DeMacio, had seen a lot of him and liked everything they saw about him.
Tony DeMacio (Braves Director of Scouting, 2009-Present; scout that signed Jones in 1990): The first time I went to see him it was at Bolles [School] where he played. You could see he was a gifted athlete, first of all. He made things look easy on the field.
B.B. Abbott (agent and longtime friend): He always played up. When I say that, as an eight-year-old he played with 10-year-olds, as a 10-year-old he played with 12-year-olds. As an eighth-grader in high school ... he played with varsity guys.
Tom Glavine (Braves Starting Pitcher, 1987-2002, 2008; FOX Sports South and SportSouth broadcaster): The first time I remember any recollection of Chipper was when that draft approached that year. It was him and Todd Van Poppel on a lot of people's lists. We had heard that [Van Poppel] wasn't going to sign with the Braves if they drafted him. Then Chipper was next in line.
Todd Van Poppel (Pitcher 1991-2004; picked No. 14 in the 1990 MLB draft): I played in the Mickey Mantle World Series, the Connie Mack World Series. I wanted to go play in the Olympics; I wanted to go play in the College World Series, and someday the World Series. I wanted to go to college and do the college thing. I was going to school.
I was pretty much dead set on that. [Following the draft], the A's came in and made me realize my ultimate goal, at the time, was to play major league baseball ... It really had nothing to do with telling [the Braves] no, because as far as that goes, I told everybody no.
B.B. Abbott: Bobby Cox has said it the best. When he came into see him there were some thoughts that maybe he wasn't tough because he was at a private school and maybe he wasn't ready. But I think he answered all of those questions his senior year.
John Schuerholz: Bobby said to me that it was never a matter of wondering who we were going to pick, we were certain we were going to pick Chipper ... When I saw him, it was easy to see the physical talent.
B.B. Abbott: He hit .220-something his first year ... As an 18-year-old kid, there are very, very few kids who come out and go to the Gulf Coast League and really perform at a high level. So that first half season down there, he really struggled, like most kids do.
Ron Gant (Braves Outfielder, 1987-1993; FOX Sports South/SportSouth Analyst, MLB Network Analyst): It's hard to live up to those expectations. I've seen a lot of top prospects not even make it past AA ... For me, guys like Chipper, you see what they really are, especially those guys who get all the pressure put on them to excel.
B.B. Abbott: At triple-A, everything really came together, and at 21 years old, he's in Richmond and hitting over .300, stealing over 20 bases, a ton of doubles, a ton of home runs. I think at that point, they made the switch to third base.