This Sunday, the Atlanta Braves veteran Chipper Jones visited Winthrop, gracing the baseball team, Winthrop’s campus and the city of Rock Hill with his charm and unprecedented advice for young athletes.
Jones, a seven time All-Star with the Atlanta Braves and future Hall of Famer not only met and spoke with members of Winthrop’s baseball team, but he also spoke at the annual First Pitch Dinner. The dinner is usually designated to celebrate the beginning of baseball season, but this year doubled as a fundraiser event for the team.
Head coach Tom Riginos introduced Jones in a press conference telling the story of how the two met.
Riginos was on staff at Stetson University with Chipper’s father, and he connected with the baseball star during the beginnings of his career.
“It’s an honor to follow him,” said Riginos. “I always watched from afar, and it’s a great honor and pleasure for him to visit Winthrop baseball, Rock Hill and Winthrop University.” Riginos also urged Winthrop fans and Rock Hill citizens to attend games and support the team throughout the season.
For press, students and fans alike, speaking to Jones can seem intimidating. The air in the pressroom felt palpable, but Jones was very humble as he answered various questions from the local media.
On being asked about his chances of getting into the Hall of Fame on the first ballot, Chipper feels a little realistic. “It’s really not up to me, to be honest. My motto is to only worry about the things you can control, and the only thing I can control is my resume,” said Jones. “I played during the steroid era, everybody who has gone into the Hall of Fame has got some questions to answer, and people are always going to wonder.”
Jones travels throughout the southeast speaking to various college baseball teams. ‘This is my way of giving back and it gives me a chance to meet and talk to the next generation of professional baseball players,” said Jones.
Throughout his afternoon at Winthrop, the baseball legend offered advice to young players. “Have fun. Stay honed in on what your goals are.” “I’ve seen many a career dwindle because they give in to temptation, they give in to peer pressure, they don’t take care of business when they need to, and that’s unfortunate,” said Jones.
“If I can walk into a clubhouse and affect one of them, then I’ve done my job.”
Despite his incredible record and two decades as a professional player, Jones does not regret his decision to retire. “You’d think I’d be huddled up in the corner going through withdrawals and I’m not, and that’s how I know I’ve made the right decision.”
Prompted about his future, Jones commented that he has no desire to return to the major leagues as a manager. “Definitely not, I don’t think you could pay me enough to be a manger! I’d have to delegate too much responsibility and deal with the press, I don’t know if I could do that and deal with the pressure.” He possibly sees a future in coaching, but it seems right now his biggest priority is raising a family.
Fans of Jones shouldn’t worry about him fading away from professional baseball. Not only will he continue making an impact on both players and fans, but his legacy will live on for new generations of fans.