How Chipper is Retirement?

By Rachel Nevil

When former Braves third baseman and legend Chipper Jones dropped by spring training (video), one would think he would be itching to throw back on the uniform and play some. Jones is positive about the whole retiring experience and isn’t regretting his choice.

Jones has been keeping busy starting up business ventures, spending time with his kids, hunting, running his ranch, updating his Twitter account and starting up some new romance. If anything, he is surprised by how easy it has been to retire from something that has been his life for decades. This feeling has ensured him that he has made the right decision.

He now is helping out the Braves as a special instructor. He doesn’t think he should be called a coach; he doesn’t think he is that far along yet. If anything, he is mentoring the men who used to be his teammates. Who knew the veteran would be a rookie coach?

Jones still being around isn’t the only reason for the Braves to be happy. The Upton brothers are something to get excited about. Having Heyward and the Upton brothers in the outfield will be dynamic. Jones thinks success will be determined by the pitching staff and likes what he is seeing so far.

B.J Upton has hit .242 with a .316 on-base percentage over the past four seasons with at least 30 stolen bases each season. If the Braves hitting coach can unleash his full potential and get it out of him, you have a force to be reckoned with. Jason Upton had 31 homers and 21 stolen bases in 2011 before he injured his thumb. Heyward hit .269 with 27 home runs, an .814 OPS and stole 21 bases this past season. Terry Pendleson, the Braves first-base coach said about the threesome: “You’ve got three outfielders here, if they put up the years they are capable of, you could possibly have three 30-30 guys in your outfield.”

This powerful outfield trio has fans on their toes waiting to see what will happen next. Braves Chairman and CEO Terry McGuirk said, “But to have three guys with give tools who have the upside ability with many of these five tools, it’s pretty impressive.” Maybe this young threesome has allowed Jones to rest easy that his team is headed in the right direction. From Chipper’s own mouth, “Certainly, the three guys in the outfield (Upton, Upton, and Heyward) are as dynamic as anybody else’s threesome in baseball.”

Hopefully from this next season a leader will emerge with as much influence as Chipper. Who will be the next leader in the clubhouse? Questions have been raised on Jones’ empty space being partly filled by Dan Uggla. Maybe taking over Chipper’s corner locker in spring training is more than coincidence. On the subject, Uggla responded, “I can’t say I am the new leader of the Braves. It will be taken care of collectively. We’ll miss him, but it isn’t just all about one guy.” Well said, Dan.

I see the Braves being a leader and finding a rhythm without Chipper. He has shown his leadership skills and has been an important figure but has shown other team members how to lead by his example. As much as Chipper has influenced his team, it is time for a new team and new leaders to emerge. I have faith that the Upton-Heyward threesome is skilled enough to compensate for some of Chipper’s missing swings.

One thing is for sure, Chipper is not going to make a storybook comeback in June. He has adjusted to his retirement and won’t be changing his mind. Rumors of him coming back have been dispelled by Jones. Suffering with multiple injuries and surgeries over the past two seasons, it is no wonder he doesn’t want to have to go through that again. Helping out the Braves as guest hitting instructor seems to be the only uniform-wearing he will be doing. He has traded in his bat for a compound bow.

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