Chipper reflects on career, offers advice to kids
Reds' Bruce lauds Braves legend as 'one of the greatest'
Chipper Jones says his baseball idols growing up were Cal Ripken Jr. and Mickey Mantle.
"I came up as a shortstop, so I wanted to emulate who I thought was the best shortstop in the game. And Cal Ripken was it. My dad always brought me up switch-hitting in the shadow of Mickey Mantle, so those are the two guys that I looked up to," Jones said.
But now, Jones is the one baseball stars of tomorrow -- and today -- look up to.
Reds outfielder Jay Bruce, for one, showered Jones with plenty of praise.
"He's one of the greatest. Obviously, his numbers speak for themselves," he said. "And it's going to be sad to see him go, but you know, when you've had enough, you've had enough. That's always hard for a person, a player, to know and to figure it out. But he made a great impression. He was a lot of fun to watch. As a kid, I watched him, and now I get to play against him.
"I think it's great [that he's being recognized at visiting ballparks]. All of the teams have been very receptive to that. I think he probably really appreciates that. He probably would rather not be recognized; he just wants to go out there and play the game, I'm sure, but he deserves it. If anyone does, he does, for sure."
Jones himself is humbled by the fact that he serves as a role model for kids, both as a baseball player and a person.
"Well, it's an honor. For the 23 years that I have been in pro ball, I have been able to do the right things out there on the field. For people to be coming to the ballpark with No. 10 jerseys on and want to become switch-hitters because I was, that's a tremendous compliment," Jones said.
Jones also had a few words for kids who admire him.
"Stay focused in on what your goals are, whether it is to be a baseball player or a doctor or teacher or a lawyer or whatever. ... Don't give in to outside distractions that could derail you of your dreams. ... I see so many kids get sidetracked due to unfortunate circumstances early on in life and not being able to really go out and grasp what they dream of," Jones said.
The Braves' third baseman also reflected on his career and some of his favorite moments playing the national pastime.
"Obviously, it is a team game, so being the last team standing at the end of October, at the end of a World Series, is probably the No. 1 goal and the greatest moment of my career," Jones said, referring to the Braves' World Series championship in 1995.
"I always try to put the team's goals ahead of mine. I know that if I go out there and play third base and I hit in the middle of the lineup and I do my job night in and night out, the numbers are going to be there at the end of the season. Ultimately, we are out here to win championships."
The seven-time All-Star said he knows exactly what his plans are for retirement.
"I have four little boys at home, ages 14, 11, 7, and 6 that I need to spend time with. I have never been on a spring break vacation, I have never been on a summer vacation. After 23 years of professional baseball, I think it is time to go to the next chapter in my life," Jones said.
And who knows, he might just play a little ball with his sons.
"A little bit," Chipper conceded.
"Sure, a little bit," he echoed with a grin.
Meggie Zahneis, winner of the 2011 Breaking Barriers essay contest, earned the job of youth correspondent for MLB.com in the fall of '11. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.