GREER -- Former Atlanta Braves superstar Chipper Jones reserved one final swing to take at a trio of his famous Atlanta teammates following Friday's Round 2 at the BMW Charity Pro-Am.
The slugger and cornerstone of 14 consecutive National League East titles starting in 1991 (and the 1995 World Series champs) was asked how much golf he played with three former Hall-of-Fame pitchers during his 19-year career. During their playing days, John Smoltz, Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux became well-known for their golfing prowess, but that was mostly done without Jones present.
"Us real athletes played every day," said Jones, a former third baseman, while laughing. "They had a five-man rotation so whoever was pitching was out of the foursome for that day. I heard they played 80 of the top 100 courses in America during the time they were playing. Obviously when we were in cities like Philadelphia and they're out playing Marion and Pine Valley, courses like that, yeah, I'm a little jealous. Then we go to the West Coast and they're playing Torrey (Pines) and Pebble (Beach)."
Jones continued, "But I played (baseball) every day and really couldn't get out there with them. Every once in a while on an off day, but I liked my sleep and getting ready for the (Roger) Clemens, (Curt) Schillings and (Pedro) Martinezes of the world."
Jones played 19 major league seasons before retiring in 2012 at the age of 40. His 468 home runs and 1,623 RBIs both rank 33rd all-time and his .303 batting average ranks 161st. Jones was selected first overall by Atlanta in 1990 before becoming an eight-time all-star and the 1999 National League MVP.
After playing so long at such a high level, it was difficult to find an outlet for his competitiveness, and golf has helped fill that void.
"Golf is a great substitute for satisfying some of those competitive juices, and you can't play baseball for as long as I did and just shut it off," Jones said. "You've got to have an outlet or else I'd probably shrivel up and...I don't know. But golf certainly is that for me and I've got a group at Hawks Ridge in Atlanta, and Smoltzy is sometimes out there playing with us and we have a good time with it."
Jones was pleased with making eagle at Thornblade Club's par-5 No. 5, but appeared far more happy with seeing his playing partner -- 23-year-old Web.com Tour rookie A.J. McInerney -- birdie the first five holes on the back en route to a 6-under 65 to get within five shots of the lead. Jones also admitted being nervous playing with pros inside the ropes in front of a gallery.
"As good a hand-eye coordination I have playing the game of baseball, it is completely different out here, completely different style of swing. The golf ball is just sitting there waiting for you to hit it and it frustrates me I can't make it go where I want it to go. I'd like something coming at me about 95 miles-per-hour with a piece of wood in my hand and I just let it fly. There's so much technicality to the golf swing I haven't grasped."
As for the having the jitters, Jones said he'd feel far more comfortable facing Clemens in the bottom of the ninth with the game on the line than he does standing over a 3-foot putt with a couple of hundred people watching.
Jones played for the Greenville Braves in 1992 when the team went 100-43, which he credited for giving him his "first taste of championship baseball," and in September of the following season he was called up the Braves and became MLB's youngest player.
His life on the field was usually a smashing success, but Jones' personal life was a far different story. He just released his biography, "Ballplayer," last month and leaves no stone unturned, including addressing having multiple extramarital affairs that produced a child and led to the end of his first marriage.
Jones said it was tough to get so deep personally, but said if he was going to tell his story it had to include the bad with the good.
"I had to marinate on that one for a while. When the subject was broached, my first inclination was to say no. I felt if I wrote a book it would be somewhat entertaining, (but) you talk about the good times, you're going to have to delve into some of the bad times as well, and some of the warts and speed-bumps you had along the way, so it wasn't fun to rehash all that stuff. I'm way past that and a way better person than I was back in those days, but I still think it's something people kind of needed to know what went into my everyday life."
This article is written by Eric Boynton from Spartanburg Herald-Journal and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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