Chipper passes art of hitting to younger teammates

From one end of the visiting clubhouse of the Florida Marlins to the other, Chipper Jones made the call:


That was his cue to rookie center fielder Jordan Schafer that it was time to go to work.

Soon, Jones and Schafer were perched in front of a laptop, watching video, first of Jones' at-bats from the Braves' previous series against the Mets.

"See my head is still?" Jones said, pointing at a side view of his stance, one of three angles they could see play out on the screen at once. "That (ball) is a centimeter from being gone."

Then they pulled up film of Schafer, who had struck out three times in three consecutive games before striking out once the night before against the Mets.

"This is a little more about staying inside the ball," said Jones, pointing. "At that point, right there. It's like you're coming just a hair underneath, instead of keeping your hands up a little higher."

Schafer asked if he should start his hands up high, prompting Jones to lean back in his chair, throw his hands back, kick his front leg out, and go into a demonstration of his swing.

It's a swing that won Jones the National League batting title last year and has carried him to a career .310 batting average. It also makes him a tremendous resource to teammates.

"Kid" could have been a number of teammates in recent years, such as Jeff Francoeur, Kelly Johnson, Brian McCann, or Matt Diaz. Jones has become a de facto hitting coach of sorts.

"I love teaching what I know about hitting," Jones said. "And there's nothing more gratifying to me than to sit down with a kid or Mac or Kelly and have them apply it during the course of a game and get results out of it."

For Diaz, that happened in Philadelphia in 2006, his first year in Atlanta.

He'd been up and down in Kansas City the year before and was hitting only .200 (6-for-30) so far as a Brave. He struck up a conversation with Jones in the dugout, asking how he kept from rolling over pitches and grounding out.

They went in the batting cage the next day. That night Diaz tripled on a line drive up the middle. He got hits in eight of his next 11 at-bats, including a 5-for-5 game in Florida. He hit .476 for the month of May and .327 for the year.

Diaz had problems keeping his back foot planted, and Jones had given him a constructive way to think about changing it.

"I've heard it said many times, keep your back leg on the ground, but just the verbiage he used," Diaz said. "He said, 'Just try to think keep your back leg bent through the whole swing.' For some reason, that locked."

Jones grew up learning the verbiage from his father, Larry Wayne Jones Sr., who coached at Stetson University in DeLand, Fla.

These days, Jones is a chip off the old block for more than just his looks.

"What I try and give these guys is an extension of everything my dad taught me," said Jones, who also credits his Braves hitting coaches. "Everything that Terry (Pendleton) and Don Baylor and Merv Rettenmund and Clarence Jones have all taught me through the years. Sometimes it comes across better from a player better than it does from a coach or an instructor. I think that my track record gives me instant credibility, and I love it when those guys come to me and want to talk hitting."

What makes it work is the mutual respect between Jones and hitting coach Terry Pendleton.

Jones gets Pendleton to go with him into the cage with Schafer. And Pendleton gives Jones the freedom to take charge.

"I don't mind because Chipper may see something that I didn't pick up with one of the guys," Pendleton said. "I don't profess to know everything, and these kids can probably teach me something out here at different times."

Pendleton said Jones kids that when Pendleton is a manager some day, Jones will be his hitting coach. Pendleton isn't sure how serious he is.

But he is.

Jones sees helping now as part of his duty as a teammate. But he can visualize being a hitting coach some day.

"I don't think there's any doubt that at some point I would like to," Jones said. "Everybody always asks me 'Do you want to manage?' I never want to manage in the big leagues, but I wouldn't mind being a hitting instructor."