Braves' Jones ready to start new chapter in life

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Braves' Jones ready to start new chapter in life

BOSTON -- Chipper Jones remembers the water sloshing around his cleats as he walked through the tunnel from the visitors clubhouse.

The rain had collected into a large puddle he had to navigate before reaching the field. When it rains, you need waders to get down to the dugout, he said.

Once up the steps, he took in the sights of Fenway Park. He paid attention to the small nuances -- the ramps that he says give the stadium that old school feel, the advertisements posted on the right field wall that remind him of minor league ballpark, and the historic Green Monster that loomed over left field.

Its a different culture in and of itself, he said. As a southern kid, its a fun place to come and hang out and experience the city. The ballpark is a rarity. Its not something you see every day. When you play Major League baseball, you expect to go into these real modern, immaculate, huge facilities, and this is one of the two old cozy ones where tradition outweighs the pressures of modernization. I love it.

The southern kid actually grew up watching the Red Sox. Jones maternal grandparents were from Boston and shared their passion for the team with him. Even though Jones lived in Florida, the Red Sox were still close to home.

I grew up somewhat of a Red Sox fan because of my grandparents, he said. They loved Carl Yastrzemski and Carlton Fisk and Freddy Lynn and Dwight Evans, Jim Rice, and all those guys. I grew up watching them quite a bit and listening to my grandfather yell at the TV. Theres a connection there, so theres always been an intrigue for me to come here.

This weekend Jones made his final trip to Fenway Park as he plans to retire at the end of the season, his 20th in the Majors. The Atlanta Braves third baseman has played 50 games against the Red Sox over his career, with 24 of them in Boston.

When Interleague play began in 1997, though, Jones admits he wasnt overly excited about the change. An old school fan of the game, he looked forward to events like the All-Star Game and the World Series as a unique opportunity to see the leagues battle. But after coming to Fenway Park over the last 15 years, he appreciates the match ups.

I was never a big proponent of interleague play, he said. I think it takes away from some of the luster of the All-Star Game. When I was growing up, I always looked forward to watching the All-Star Game because you had the best from each league never having seen each other before. Obviously it takes away from some of the luster of the World Series because if us and Boston makes it to the World Series, youre going to have three games during the course of the summer to go back and reference.

Some intrigue when I was growing up was, you had the big bats in the American League and the big pitching staffs in the National League. Much like it was in 95 when we won it. Everybody was so intrigued. (Greg) Maddux, (Tom) Glavine, and (John) Smoltz against the big bats of the Cleveland Indians, one of the best offenses ever. So intriguing. Thats lost some of its luster with Interleague Play.

But its hard not to get excited to come here never having been, never having played. Interleague gave me the opportunity to come here. Weve never played Boston in the World Series so I never would have had the chance.

On Saturday the Red Sox presented Jones with the number 10 from the scoreboard wall. It was one of many gifts he has received in what has become a farewell tour around baseball.

After over 20 years, 2,426 games, 2,653 hits, and 459 home runs in 8,735 at bats, Jones is ready to walk away from a career that began when his name was called by the Braves with the first overall pick in the 1990 amateur draft. During that span he has won a World Series Championship, National League MVP honors, the National League batting title, two Silver Slugger Awards, and has been selected to the All-Star Team seven times.

I can do one thing better than 99.9 percent of the people on the planet, and thats play baseball, Jones said of why he has continued playing this long. And its what Ive dreamt about doing since I was four or five years old. But Ive been living out of a suitcase for 23 years playing pro ball and Im ready to start the next chapter in my life. Im really tired of the travel and the every day ins and outs of being a Major League baseball player. I want to get away from it.

"I want to do some things that Ive never done. Ive never been on a Spring Break vacation with my family. Ive never been on a summer vacation with my family. I see baseball games and flag football games sparingly. And these are all things that I want to do.

At 40 years old, Jones can still play ball. He doesnt doubt his ability. But he has established a career that will likely earn him a place in the Hall of Fame. Stretching out his time in a uniform, he worries, could tarnish his lasting mark.

Jones also remembers when former teammates Glavine signed with the Mets and Smoltz joined the Red Sox. It was important to him to close out his career on a high note with the Braves.

Turning 40 had a little something to do with it, he said. 40 is a nice round number. I think 40 years old in baseball years is like 100 in human years. Its just a situation where like I said, 23 years is a long time to be doing anything. Ive been in the big leagues 19 years and the game is speeding up on me. Its hard to slow it down.

When you start playing, the game is really, really fast. Then when you get into your prime, the game slows down, almost for the real good ones, like slow pitch softball. And then as you get older, third base gets farther from first base. The pitchers mound gets closer to home plate. The game starts speeding up on you. And thats whats happening. I just dont want peoples last impression of me to be failing miserably before I call it quits.

I still have a job every day if I want it at 40, Im still able to play at a relatively good level, and this allows the Braves and I to kind of stay on the same page and kind of part ways amicably. I learned a lot from Glavine and Smoltz when they left and some of the PR hits that the Braves and those individual players took along the way. And I just dont want to put the organization through that.

After announcing his plans to retire during Spring Training, Jones has been able to spend this season appreciating his final games while becoming increasingly excited about the future that lies ahead for him after baseball. The father of four sons ages six through 14 looks forward to having weeks and months, not All-Star Breaks and homestands, to spend with his family.

With all of the articles and interviews that have been published about Jones, he wants above anything else for people to realize his true passion.

My private life and my life away from baseball has been well documented, he said. Im on TV even in the offseason with hunting shows and what not. People are still able to see me. They know what my likes and dislikes are. But I think that in the end, I want people to know that I want to be as good a father as I have been a baseball player for the last 20 years. In order for me to do that, I have to stop playing. A lot of people dont know that because they think that Ive eaten, drank, slept baseball for the last 23 years, and thats not the case. When I had kids, my priorities changed a lot. Thats the reason why I have about three months left in my career.

There is always a possibility Jones could return to Fenway Park in his retirement. But as he leaves on Sunday afternoon, he is in a good place walking away from another ballpark he will never play another game in. Departing from 4 Yawkey Way means he is one step closer to returning to Atlanta.

Thats why I know Im ready, he said. Because were on the sixth day of a six or seven-day road trip and I cant wait to get home because we have off Monday and I get to spend the day with them. Im very content.

Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines, Ivan Rodriguez elected to Hall of Fame

Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines, Ivan Rodriguez elected to Hall of Fame

NEW YORK - Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Ivan Rodriguez were elected to baseball's Hall of Fame on Wednesday, earning the honor as Trevor Hoffman and Vladimir Guerrero fell just short.

Steroids-tainted stars Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens were passed over for the fifth straight year by the Baseball Writers' Association of America. But they received significantly more votes this time and could be in position to gain election in coming years.

Bagwell, on the ballot for the seventh time after falling 15 votes short last year, received 381 of 442 votes for 86.2 percent. Players needed 75 percent, which came to 332 votes this year.

In his 10th and final year of eligibility, Raines was on 380 ballots (86 percent). Rodriguez received 336 votes (76 percent) to join Johnny Bench in 1989 as the only catchers elected on the first ballot.

Hoffman was five votes shy and Guerrero 15 short.

Edgar Martinez was next at 58.6 percent, followed by Clemens at 54.1 percent, Bonds at 53.8 percent, Mike Mussina at 51.8 percent, Curt Schilling at 45 percent, Lee Smith at 34.2 percent and Manny Ramirez at 23.8 percent.

Players will be inducted July 30 during ceremonies at Cooperstown along with former Commissioner Bud Selig and retired Kansas City and Atlanta Braves executive John Schuerholz, both elected last month by a veterans committee.

Bagwell was a four-time All-Star who spent his entire career with Houston, finishing with a .297 batting average, 401 homers and 1,401 RBIs.

Raines, fifth in career stolen bases, was a seven-time All-Star and the 1986 NL batting champion. He spent 13 of 23 big league seasons with the Montreal Expos, who left Canada to become the Washington Nationals for the 2005 season, and joins Andre Dawson and Gary Carter as the only players to enter the Hall representing the Expos.

Raines hit .294 with a .385 on-base percentage, playing during a time when Rickey Henderson was the sport's dominant speedster.

Rodriguez, a 14-time All-Star who hit .296 with 311 homers and 1,332 RBIs, was never disciplined for PEDs but former Texas teammate Jose Canseco alleged in a 2005 book that he injected the catcher with steroids. Asked whether he was on the list of players who allegedly tested positive for steroids during baseball's 2003 survey, Rodriguez said in 2009: "Only God knows."

Bonds, a seven-time MVP who holds the season and career home run records, received 36.2 percent in his initial appearance, in 2013, and jumped from 44.3 percent last year. Clemens, a seven-time Cy Young Award winner, rose from 45.2 percent last year.

Bonds was indicted on charges he lied to a grand jury in 2003 when he denied using PEDs, but a jury failed to reach a verdict on three counts he made false statements and convicted him on one obstruction of justice count, finding he gave an evasive answer. The conviction was overturned appeal in 2015.

Clemens was acquitted on one count of obstruction of Congress, three counts of making false statements to Congress and two counts of perjury, all stemming from his denials of drug use.

A 12-time All-Star on the ballot for the first time, Ramirez was twice suspended for violating baseball's drug agreement. He helped the Boston Red Sox win World Series titles in 2004 and `07, the first for the franchise since 1918, and hit .312 with 555 home runs and 1,831 RBIs in 19 big league seasons.

Several notable players will join them in the competition for votes in upcoming years: Chipper Jones in 2018, Mariano Rivera and Roy Halladay in 2019, and Derek Jeter in 2020.

Sam Travis among nine non-roster invitees added to Red Sox spring training roster

Sam Travis among nine non-roster invitees added to Red Sox spring training roster

The Red Sox have invited nine non-roster players to spring training, the team announced Wednesday. The team now has a total of 15 non-roster invitees. 

Added Wednesday to the spring training roster were outfielder/infielder Allen Craig, third baseman Rafael Devers, first baseman Sam Travis, catcher Jordan Procyshen, outfielders Brian Bogusevic and Rusney Castillo, and right-handed pitchers Kyle Kendrick, Chandler Shepherd and Ben Taylor.

In addition to 39 players on the 40-man roster, the Sox have the following breakdown of non-roster invitees: 

Pitchers: Kyle Kendrick, Edgar Olmos, Chandler Shepherd, Ben Taylor, Marcus Walden
 
Catchers: Dan Butler, Jake DePew, Jordan Procyshen
 
Infielders: Rafael Devers, Matt Dominguez, Sam Travis
 
Outfielders: Brian Bogusevic, Rusney Castillo, Allen Craig, Junior Lake