Chipper hits a home run at TFP Best of Preps banquet - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Chipper hits a home run at TFP Best of Preps banquet

CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) -- Chipper Jones is having no problems easing into retirement.

The former Atlanta Braves' slugger and future Major League Baseball hall of famer is adamant he has never second-guessed his decision to walk away from the game last fall after a two-decade career, especially from the physical standpoint.

"The time definitely came where the body said to me, 'You know what, it's time to go,'" Jones said in a brief interview with Channel 3.

Jones expected the transition to be tough mentally, though that hasn't been the case.

He has gladly traded ten months on the road living out of a suitcase for a chance to hang out close to home. The eight-time all-star has found it easy to stay busy with hunting, golfing and some long-overdue quality time with his four children.

Watching his old team as a fan, though, has been more of a work in progress.

"I've flung a few flip-flops at the television already this year," Jones admitted when interviewed on stage Monday night at the Times Free Press Best of Preps banquet. "It's really hard because I can't keep my mouth shut. I just want to be in that dugout so bad to get in those guys' ears."

Jones' list of accomplishments is as impressive as it is lengthy, especially considering his numbers were compiled while enduring seven different knee surgeries.

Jones closed a 19-year career with the Braves last October with a .303 batting average, 468 home runs and 1,623 RBI. He is the only switch-hitter in baseball history with more than 400 homers and a career average higher than .300.

"I would have certainly loved to have punctuated my run in Atlanta with one more championship, but I understand those championships are pretty hard to come by," said Jones, who won one World Series title with the Braves in 1995. "Personally, I had done all I could and accomplished everything I wanted to. We reached the apex more than a few times, and I always told myself I wasn't going to stick around for a number -- like 500 home runs or 3,000 hits.

"My legacy had already been written, so I didn't need those things to justify my legacy."

That legacy made him a fan favorite across Braves' Country, which explains why the largest crowd in Best of Preps history welcomed him to Chattanooga.

Jones did not disappoint during a 45-minute conversation with Times Free Press sports editor Jay Greeson and assistant sports editor Stephen Hargis, mixing interesting stories from across his career with some wit and sincerity.

"It's been a good marriage," said the twice-divorced Jones when asked about spending his entire career with one team, "and that's saying a lot because I'm not real good at being married."

But Jones does know a thing or two about being in the spotlight, and his message to a room of celebrated young athletes was to make the most of the platform they're being offered.

"Be a hero, but not in the usual sense," Jones said. "You can do a lot of things in the athletic world and be a hero, but you can also be a hero off the court and off the field. Be a mentor and be a great role model to kids who look up to you.

"It took me awhile into my career to realize the opportunity I had to do that. But now, if I can inspire a young person to pursue their dreams, whatever they may be, I feel like I've done my job."

Click here to view the full list of winners from Monday night's Best of Preps banquet.

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