Rather than return to the ESPN broadcast booth this season, Atlanta Braves Hall of Fame third baseman Chipper Jones decided to come back to the Braves and try his hand at another of his post-retirement passions: coaching hitters. The Atlanta Braves announced that they have hired Jones as their part-time major league hitting consultant on Monday.
Jones said in essence, he’ll be joining Bobby Magallanes and Jose Castro as assistant hitting coaches under Braves hitting coach Kevin Seitzer, who’s now in his seventh year. Unlike Magallanes and Castro though, Jones will not travel with the team or be in the dugout during home games.
Jones will be back in uniform — bringing his No. 10 jersey out of retirement — prior to games at Truist Park, but he will only be working with hitters behind the scenes: in the video room, indoor cages and during batting practice.
“Seits and I have a great relationship,” Jones said. “We speak the same terminology. We see eye to eye on things. (Castro) and Magallanes are both bilingual; they’re both really good communicators obviously, especially with the Latin players. I think it’s a great dynamic. I think all of our voices carry some weight. No hitting coach is going to come into a given team and hit it off with every hitter. I think it’s pretty cool that we have a bunch of guys that No. 1, are accessible for all the guys, and guys will find who they’re comfortable with. We’ll have everybody covered and as prepared as possible at 7:05 p.m.”
Jones said he will also spend the first three weeks of spring training in North Port, Fla., getting to know some of the Braves’ younger hitters.
The Braves had already finalized their coaching staff, announcing in December that they were promoting Magallanes to a full-time assistant hitting coach position at the major league level. (He’d previously served as hitting coach for Triple-A Gwinnett in 2019 and as a part-time major league hitting instructor in 2020.) But that was before Jones found out in early January that his Wednesday Night Baseball play-by-play partner Jon “Boog” Sciambi would be leaving ESPN to take over as the Chicago Cubs play-by-play announcer.
Jones also said he was disillusioned with the possibility of broadcasting remotely for the second consecutive season because of COVID-19.
“One of the allures of ESPN was my relationship with Boog, my chemistry with boog,” Jones said. “I had a blast. But what we did last year is not what I signed up for. I wanted to be on site. I wanted to be in the stadium. I wanted to be talking to players. I wanted to be talking to managers. I wanted to be more prepared.”
While Sciambi did play-by-play from ESPN studios in Bristol, Conn., Jones offered his analysis from behind a desk in his study at home in Canton.
“Boog and I weren’t sitting next to each other,” Jones said. “We weren’t able to feed off each other. We weren’t able to give our views on what was going on at the ballpark that the viewer can’t see, and that was unfortunate. With the likelihood that we may be doing it again, I don’t want to do it that way. I’d much rather be in the ballpark helping my boys get as prepared as they possibly can for 7:05.”
Jones said he was approached by Fox Sports about joining the Braves regional broadcast but preferred getting back on the field and into the clubhouse. Jones said he was the one who approached Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos about returning as a hitting coach at the major league level in some capacity, and the Braves created this unique position for him.
Credit: Kevin D. Liles/Atlanta Braves
Credit: Kevin D. Liles/Atlanta Braves
Jones has maintained since he retired as a player in 2012 that he had little interest in being away from his family for the length of time that’s required for a full-time coaching or broadcasting position.
“I would much rather go to the ballpark from noon to 6 o’clock every day and be home for dinner and put the kids to bed and wake up and take them to school and watch the games on TV,” Jones said. “That’s about as good as it gets for me.”
Jones said in addition to working with hitters on their mechanics and mental approaches, he’s hoping to put his video expertise to good use studying opposing pitchers.
“If I spend an hour before the guys start getting into the clubhouse, watching tonight’s pitcher that we’re facing,” Jones said. “… and I can pick up if he’s tipping from windup or the stretch, I’m earning my money right there.”
The former switch-hitter and 1999 National League Most Valuable Player anchored the Braves lineup in the No. 3 hole for almost his entire 18-year career. He’s also the son of a hitting coach; his father Larry Jones Sr. coached both at the high school level and later as the hitting coach at Stetson University.
The communication skills that made Jones an instant success in the broadcast booth have also helped him mentor young hitters all along. Jones was known for helping younger teammates as a veteran in the Braves clubhouse, and since his retirement he’s continued to teach hitters in an advisory role with the Braves.
While there’s an old adage that star players make the worst coaches because they can’t teach others what comes naturally to them, Jones doesn’t expect to have that problem.
“If you as a hitting coach are stubborn in trying to make everybody hit like you did, you’re an idiot,” Jones said. “A good hitting coach knows what every single hitter does well, knows the weaknesses of all their hitters and helps them be the best version of them they can be. Certainly I will suggest some of the things that I did, but If the player has not bought in 100 percent to that idea, you’re just wasting your time. That’s why I say I think it’s great that there are four guys in our camp that can reach every single hitter.”
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Credit: Ben Hendren for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution
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