AJC Best of Chipper: Braves sign No. 1 pick for $275,000 bonus

Braves legend Chipper Jones is set for induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday in Cooperstown, N.Y. This article is the first of a 10-part series that traces the career of the iconic Braves third baseman. This article appeared in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Tuesday, June 5, 1990. 

By Joe Strauss 

Staff writer

The Atlanta Braves made switch-hitting shortstop Chipper Jones the No. 1 overall pick of baseball’s amateur draft Monday, then signed him to a $275,000 bonus, the most lucrative contract ever awarded a high school player.

Reluctant to take high school pitcher Todd Van Poppel, who said he would attend the University of Texas rather than sign, the Braves passed on the Texan and were quick to get Jones under contract.

Jones was so eager to become a Brave that he had three of the team's hats stowed in the bedroom of his Pierson, Fla., home. When he received the word at 1:20 p.m., he immediately donned one for photographers.

“I know there are some people who will say I was the Braves’ second choice,” Jones said. “But that’s better than being their ninth or the 10th. If Todd Van Poppel doesn’t want to play for the Atlanta Braves, I’ll be more than happy to take his place.”

More on Chipper Jones

» The raising of a Hall of Famer
» Hank Aaron reflects on Chippers' career
» Chipper and Atlanta share memorable bond

“We liked about three guys really well,” Braves general manager Bobby Cox said. “But this kid is definitely going to be in the big leagues as a shortstop. We wanted to tighten that spot up, and we feel we've gotten the perfect player to do so.”

Jones, 6-foot-3 and 185 pounds, batted .488 for The Bolles School in Jacksonville, Fla., with five home runs, 25 RBI and 14 stolen bases in16 attempts.

The contract includes a provision that the Braves provide for Jones's education at the college of his choice following his baseball career. The contract also includes incentives for each level attained and a life insurance annuity that pushes the total value of the package to about $400,000.

“It’s the most money we’ve ever given to a drafted player,” Cox said. “It’s a good contract. We’re happy about it, and he’s dying to play.”

Jones will come to Atlanta on Saturday to work out with the team and undergo an examination of his right hand, which he fractured in a scuffle with a teammate last month. He will then be assigned to the Braves’ rookie league club in Bradenton, Fla.

Though Jones’ signing set a record for high school players, it was not the most money given a draftee. The No. 4 pick, junior college pitcher Alex Fernandez, was given $350,000 to sign with the Chicago White Sox.