Chipper will be missed

As Chipper Jones and I were at Osceola County Stadium talking about his beloved Florida Gators or some other forgotten topic about six or seven years ago, the conversation turned to a point where he said something like, “My mother is pretty guarded, it takes a long time to really get to know her.”

Like Mother, like Son.

When I started this gig for MLB.com in 2001, Jones was one of the game’s elite players and I was a 26-year-old kid who would learn over the course of the next 11 years that he did not know nearly as much as he thought he did back then.

More importantly, this span provided me the pleasure of getting to know Larry Wayne Jones. Somewhere along the line, he became a little less guarded and allowed me to know him as more than just the face of the Braves and one of the greatest switch hitters ever.

As an emotional Jones addressed his wife, Sharon, and three of his boys during Thursday’s press conference, I was reminded of those times when our phone conversations have been interrupted by the need to help one of the boys with their math homework or to simply tell them to take care of some household chore.

Jones will miss the camaraderie and the competitive thrill every long baseball season provides.  But as he said Thursday, it’s time for him to start spending more time with these kids, who have always had to share their father once the baseball season arrived on an annual basis.

But before going down, the sappy, “I’m going to miss you” road, we’re all going to have the fortunate of seeing Chipper’s talents over the course of an entire season.  There will be plenty of time for me to irk him again like I did six or seven years ago when I referred to him as a “part time superstar” as he was dealing with some injuries.

While that might have seemed like the right thing to say at that time, now seems to be the time to once again say that I feel blessed to have had the assignment to cover Chipper Jones.  If I have the fortune of doing this job for another 25-plus years, there is a good chance that I will never again encounter a player as talented and knowledgeable.  He has made this job so much easier for me and so many other reporters.

But like I said earlier, we’ll save some of the sappy stuff for September or October.

By now many of you have likely read all of the Chipper-related stories posted on braves.com after Thursday’s announcement.  Here are few quotes that did not appear in those stories:

“You would be hard pressed to find 25 other people who have played this game better than him or more consistently than him.  You’re talking about one of the 25 best players of all-time.  Being able to be a teammate with him for six-plus years, you can’t put words to it.”   — Matt Diaz

“I’m sure if I go 0-for-25 and strike out 20 times, they’ll probably express their displeasure.ut they shouldn’t be booing me.  They should be booing Fredi for putting me in there.   I’m joking when I say that.”  — Jones on whether the fans might give him a free pass this year.

“Bobby (Cox)took a flyer on me and I spent the past 23 years trying to make him proud and not make him answer questions about why he took some young punk with the number one pick. I was lucky enough to play 17 seasons under Bobby Cox.  He’s the greatest manager many of us will ever know.”   —  Jones

TODAY’S TIDBITS:  The Braves reassigned Joey Terdoslavich, Christian Bethancourt,Ernesto Mejia, Dusty Hughes and Adam Russell to Minor League camp…Manager Fredi Gonzalez said Tim Hudson is targeted to join the Atlanta rotation during the series against the Pirates (April 27-30)…Gonzalez said he is now open to providing Jack Wilson his wish to begin the season on Atlanta’s Opening Day roster.  Wilon has not experienced any recent problems with his previously-strained right calf.

 

 

 

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