In the seven years since his retirement, former Braves third baseman Chipper Jones has dabbled in broadcasting, making regular visits to the TV booth. In 2020, Jones is making it official. ESPN has hired the Hall of Famer to broadcast 20 games as a color analyst during their “Wednesday Night Baseball” broadcasts.
Jones is replacing David Ross, the former Braves catcher who left the position at ESPN to take over as manager of the Chicago Cubs.
“A lot of people don’t know this, but if I hadn’t played baseball, if I had gone to college, I would have majored in communications,” said Jones, who was the No. 1 overall pick of the draft by the Braves in 1990. “I wanted to be a broadcaster. I really have fun talking the game. I feel like I have something to impart upon the people tuning in, and I have fun doing it. I get the chance to do it on probably the biggest stage you can, maybe next to ‘Sunday Night Baseball’ (on ESPN).”
The Hall of Fame hitter earned a reputation among his Braves teammates for virtually “rolling out of bed” and getting two hits in a game. This hire has a similar feel. Jones has worked two full games in a broadcast booth ever – once last year for ESPN and once last year for a Braves regional broadcast for Fox Sports - but his on-air presence is so polished that the “Worldwide Leader in Sports” took notice.
“If I had to sit in the ESPN booth and talk about religion or politics or astrophysics, obviously I would be out of my element,” Jones said.“But this is something that I’ve lived my whole life. I’ve stood 60 feet, 6 inches from the best in the world, and I’ve played third base for two decades, and I have a lot of input and a lot of knowledge on the subject. I know it takes a little something to be able to get your point across, but that doesn’t intimidate me. …
“I’m not going to sit here and say that my way is the way, but I feel like I can do a lot like Smoltzy (John Smoltz) and Glav (Tom Glavine) and Frenchy (Jeff Francoeur) and those guys, who have become pretty good at their craft in trying to get across what it’s like to be in the game.”
ESPN got a taste of Jones’ potential last year when he was invited into its “Wednesday Night Baseball” booth during a broadcast in Atlanta by Ross and play-by-play man Jon “Boog” Sciambi. Sciambi used to do play-by-play for Braves games with SportSouth and FSN South from 2007-09.
During the broadcast last year, Sciambi and Jones had a funny exchange about a time when Jones once stepped out of the batter’s box to glare up at Sciambi in the booth in the middle of a Braves game, over a question Sciambi had asked him about swinging at first-pitch strikes. The clip made the rounds on YouTube and Twitter.
For at least a portion of the games in 2020, Jones will work alongside Sciambi.
“He’s so good,” Jones said. “He just tees you up and then you go reflect back on your experience.It’s not that difficult. You’ve just got to have a conversation with Boog and ignore that millions of people are listening.”
Jones said his challenge will be in familiarizing himself with teams from around baseball.
“Most of the games I’ve done have been Braves games,” Jones said. “So obviously knowing those guys and knowing the organization and knowing the teams that are within our division the best - that helps. So there’s going to be a little more homework involved in this endeavor. I’m going to have to be patient. I’m going to have to be diligent and do my homework and not sound like an idiot when I get on the air.
“The game itself hasn’t changed, but the players have and my familiarity with some of the other players and teams has. I’m going to have to do some research on it.”
Getting to be a part of broadcasts outside of Atlanta also is part of what makes this new role exciting, Jones said.
“Being a Brave my whole life, I’ve never gotten to experience being in the ballpark with the Yankees-Red Sox or the Dodgers-Giants or the Cubs-Cardinals - some of the big rivalries within the game,” Jones said. “I’ve played in all those stadiums, but I’ve never sat in the stands and watched games in those stadiums, and that is going to be something that I will really be looking forward to.”
Since his retirement from playing in 2012, Jones has been adamant about being able to spend most of the time at home. Jones, father of seven boys, lives in Canton with his wife, Taylor. That has precluded him from taking any more than an advisory role with the Braves.
Now that he has accepted this position with ESPN Jones no longer will be employed by the Braves. There is still a possibility he’ll sign on to do some work on Braves regional telecasts on Fox Sports as he did last season when he made appearances on the pregame and postgame shows and called one game from the ChopHouse with Chip Caray and Francoeur.
“If I were to be employed by the Braves to the extent that I really feel like I can make an impact, I would be gone from home too much,” Jones said. “This allows me to be able to be gone one to two nights a week during baseball season. My kids can tune in and see me on TV, but I’m not gone an abundant amount of time that I still can’t go to baseball games and drive kids to school and help with homework and all that kind of stuff. That remains most important to me.”
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