By: Emily Haggstrom Issue: Sports Section: Collaborator Profile
He has been with the Atlanta Braves franchise as a third baseman and team leader for almost two decades. Within that time, Larry Wayne “Chipper” Jones, Jr. has become one of the Braves most coveted team members and arguably one of the greatest players in major league baseball. His all-star status coincides with his batting average and his uncanny ability to slug baseballs right out of the park.
Jones also distinguishes himself off of the field as well as on through his own organization, aptly named the Chipper Jones Family Foundation. Though the foundation has a diverse giving base, almost all of the organizations affect the communities that Jones grew up in and where he currently lives. These various groups range from local little league program sponsorships to charitable donations affecting 30,000 Americans through the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Regardless if it’s on the field or off, Jones continues to make dreams come true by inspiring children and adults alike with his baseball abilities and his charitable ingenuity. Before one of his many baseball games, he sat down to answer a few questions about life, leadership and teamwork.
Who inspired you growing up?
My mom and dad. My dad and I went to the backyard on Saturday afternoons and we would imitate the line up from the game of the week and that’s where I learned how to switch hit. My mom was a professional equestrian and the most mentally tough woman. I got a lot of my mental toughness from her. And, I was a huge Dodgers fan and whenever Mike Socha or Rick Monday batted they hit left handed. Both were huge influences, as were my parents.
Youth sports have become a full-time job for both children and their parents, creating a competitive drive that often results in a “win at any cost” mentality. Through your competitive and professional experiences in teamwork what would you suggest to alleviate this aggressive behavior?
Sports parents have a very fine line to walk. There are times when they need to push their children and there are times when they need to step back. In my opinion, playing baseball year around is a bit much and I believe the kids can get burned out. A change of season and sports keeps the game fresh - whatever game it is.
I would like to see kids change seasons and play recreational football or basketball and mix it up - and take a break from the sport that they want to succeed in while still staying active and competitive.
Knowing when to do that is what makes a good sports parent.
As a leader in your profession and the communities where you’ve lived, what message would you convey to people about living out their dreams and not giving up?
Learn from your mistakes and don’t continue to make the same ones. I have skeletons in my closet but it's made me a better person, father and husband. It’s something that every player deals with and how you come out of it that makes who you are.
As a rookie did you know you wanted to get involved in philanthropy or was it something that you felt compelled to do later in your career?
That was exactly how it was. My parents gave me morals at a young age, they taught me never to forget my roots or where I came from. In 1997 I met this boy with cystic fibrosis and he passed shortly after that. Instantly I became an instant supporter of kids that had cystic fibrosis.
You meet lots of people through your charity work. Do people ask you to dedicate games to them and do you?
Very seldom. But in one case I did. Last year a kid named Buddy who was a big fan, had a bad accident and was in a coma for 2 weeks. He had to learn how to walk, speak and eat all over again. When I met him, the first words out of his mouth were my favorite player is Chipper Jones, my favorite baseball team is the Braves and you have to hit a home run for me tonight. “I’ll do it,” I told him, and sure enough third at bat I hit a home run and I said, “Thank you Lord, for making that happen for that kid.”
Will you dedicate more time to your foundation once you retire?
I will always remain involved in charity work to be an example for my kids and to be a good role model. But my boys and my wife have sacrificed a lot for my career, so after baseball I want to spend some time with them. But I’ll still remain doing what I love - and that’s helping kids.
Emily Haggstrom has a B.A. in Journalism and Media from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. She is a member of the Level One Society in Denver, Colorado and sits in on various charity committees. In an effort to impact her local community she also volunteers for Whiz Kids Tutoring, Inc. as well as Denver Health Medical Center.