LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — On the same day it was announced he’d be inducted into the Braves Hall of Fame, Andruw Jones officially retired as a player and began a guest-instructor stint in Braves spring training.
Jones, 38, won 10 consecutive Gold Gloves and was a peerless defensive center fielder for the Braves before leaving as a free agent after the 2007 season.
Of the 434 home runs and 1,289 RBIs he totaled in a 17-year major league career, 368 homers and 1,117 RBIs came in the 12 seasons he spent with the Braves, who signed him as a 16-year-old out of Curacao.
Jones won eight of his Gold Gloves in the last eight seasons of the Braves’ run of 14 consecutive division titles through 2005, and the Braves’ “Big Three” starting pitchers – Hall of Famers Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz – all praise him at every opportunity for the work he did behind them.
“He deserves a lot of credit” for the division-title run, said Braves president and former general manager John Schuerholz, who’ll be inducted into the team’s hall of fame on Aug. 19 alongside Jones. “You saw him play defense the way only he could play. He could play in shallow, go into the gaps and made catches, go up against the wall, throw guys out at bases, had great instincts – he was a full player. He was a great player.
“He played defense great, saved a lot of runs for those pitchers, and they were the first to admit that. And then you’d see him on the base paths — when he didn’t hit a home run — he could steal a base, he could go from first to home easily. He had all the skills, and he worked hard at making them better throughout his career.”
“I’m really honored to go into the Braves Hall of Fame with someone the caliber of Andruw Jones.”
Jones has said he’d like to become a coach or instructor and work with young players in an organization, perhaps the Braves. For now, he’ll serve as a guest instructor in Braves camp through March 6.
“Right now I’m just going to see what guys can do, then you talk to them and try to help them,” he said. “I’m just happy to be here and be part of the organization. If they tell me to go work with a kid and try to help him defensively or whatever, I’ll be more than happy to work with any kid who’s willing to work.
“I’ll be happy to help anybody I can help.”