Longtime Atlanta Braves third baseman Chipper Jones is in the midst of a tour promoting his new autobiography, “Ballplayer,” a book he wrote with Carroll Rogers Walton. Despite already visiting several cities around the country to hype his first go at being an author, the eight-time All-Star was taken aback by the crowd at Columbus’ Barnes & Noble Saturday.
Jones said he saw via social media that people lining up at 6:00 a.m. as they tried to ensure meeting the 19-year Major League Baseball veteran.
“It’s crazy,” Jones said. “We’re in the heart of Braves country down here, and it’s nice to see all the Braves fans come out. I always look forward to going to a different part of Braves country to meet new people and maybe touch some people that I haven’t seen before. It’s really cool to be back down here in Columbus.”
Considering all Jones’ accomplishments as a Brave, it’s no wonder the Atlanta fans arrived in droves.
Jones played his entire career in an Atlanta uniform, hitting 468 home runs and posting a career average of .303 along the way. He was a pivotal member of the 1995 World Series championship squad as well as the teams that won 14 consecutive division titles. Along with the numerous All-Star appearances, he was the National League MVP in 1999 and won the Silver Slugger Award twice.
Now five years removed from his playing days, Jones has released “Ballplayer”, a look at his life both on and off the baseball diamond.
Jones said it took about two-and-a-half years since Walton, who spent time covering the Braves for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, approached him about the project. Jones said the process made him really think twice about ever writing another book, but days like Saturday that allow for meet and greets with fans and soon-to-be readers make it worthwhile.
“It gives me the opportunity to get out and see a bunch of different parts of Braves country,” Jones said.
Jones made his rounds in New York and Bristol, Conn., at ESPN but said the stops in the South have been extra special.
“The term ‘these are my people’ holds some water, playing my whole career down here,” Jones said. “So many households in the Southeast, their whole day revolves around what time the Braves play. I’ve been in a lot of homes for a lot of years and meant a lot to a lot of people. They’ve been loyal to me through thick and thin, so getting the chance to meet new people is great.”
Jones said the book is ultimately for entertainment purposes but said it contains plenty of insight, especially for up-and-coming baseball players. Jones was candid in saying baseball at the Major League level brought with it temptations that “I wasn’t able to keep at arm’s length during various times in my life.” Those situations, Jones said, could prove useful to others who may one day find themselves in a similar position.
Jones said he was extremely jealous of this year’s Braves squad since the team moved into the brand-new SunTrust Park. Having said that, he doesn’t foresee a return to the game full-time in his future.
Jones is a special assistant to the general manager for the Braves, which requires some scouting and usually attending a couple of Atlanta’s games each homestand. But with wife Taylor and a young son, born in January, he relishes the chance to be a full-time husband and father for once.
“I’m happy with my life now,” Jones said. “If you go through the book, you really realize how much of my career I spent unhappy off the field. Baseball was kind of my refuge, where I could go and forget stuff. I learned to compartmentalize quite a bit. I’m happy now.”
With the bulk of his baseball behind him, Jones still gets the chance to spend time with fans in events like Saturday’s signing. The overall book experience sounded like a whirlwind for Jones, but considering his humble beginnings, it was well worth it.
“I don’t know where it is right now on the New York Times best-seller list,” Jones said. “I know we debuted at six, which for a little ol’ country boy like me, that’s pretty cool. Following people’s reaction on social media, I’d say it’s been greatly positive.”
Jordan D. Hill: 770-894-9818, @lesports