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Chipper dishes on new gig, Riley at third base

Hall of Famer will serve as color analyst on 20 Wednesday Night Baseball games for ESPN this year
@mlbbowman
March 6, 2020

NORTH PORT, Fla. -- Chipper Jones can now relate whenever he hears the story about how Jack Nicklaus was asked for identification when he arrived at Augusta National a few years ago. When Jones arrived at CoolToday Park on Friday morning, a parking lot security guard stopped him and said,

NORTH PORT, Fla. -- Chipper Jones can now relate whenever he hears the story about how Jack Nicklaus was asked for identification when he arrived at Augusta National a few years ago.

When Jones arrived at CoolToday Park on Friday morning, a parking lot security guard stopped him and said, “Sir, you do not have any credentials.”

Jones pointed toward the Braves’ new Spring Training home and said, “Yeah, but that’s me up on that banner. ... I’m Chipper Jones.”

Mic’d up Freddie narrates wild ride around bases

Jones and the security guard will forever be able to laugh about this comical encounter that began the Hall of Fame third baseman’s first trip to Atlanta's new Spring Training complex.

Though Jones’ employment with the Braves might have ended when he agreed to serve as an analyst for 20 of ESPN’s Wednesday Night Baseball broadcasts, he’ll always be a part of an organization that views him as one of its beloved icons.

Before Jones spent some time in the booth for ESPN’s broadcast of the Braves' 7-5 win over the Red Sox on Friday afternoon, he spent some talking about his broadcasting plans and the Braves’ third base battle being waged between Austin Riley and Johan Camargo.

Here are a few of his responses:

On his new role as a broadcaster

It’s a new chapter and a new challenge. It’s something I always wanted to do. If I hadn’t played baseball or if I hadn’t made it in the game of baseball, I likened what I would have done to Smalls from "The Sandlot."

On the chance to work with former Braves announcer Jon “Boog” Sciambi, who will be ESPN’s play-by-play announcer for the Wednesday night broadcasts

He’s great. He’s smooth on the air. He just tees you up. Boog knows what he wants to get out of you. It’s just a matter of him teeing you up and you knocking it out of the park. We work good together.

On working just 20 games and having a mutual option with ESPN beyond this year

It’s not a lot, but I don’t want to be gone a lot. I have a chance to walk away if I want to. But I also have the opportunity to maybe do Sunday night [broadcasts for ESPN] in the future.

On Austin Riley this spring

If I know Austin like I think I do, he is very motivated. He wants to resemble the guy from the first six weeks of last year as opposed to the last two months [of the season]. He’s got to earn the trust of [Braves manager Brian Snitker] and the coaching staff before he’s going to play every day. He looks to be on his way this spring.

If we can cut his strikeouts down by 20 to 25 percent, that’s 20 to 25 percent of more contact. We all know what he can do when he makes more contact. I don’t know what his average is with balls put in play, but I’d imagine it’s pretty good. We’ve got to get more of that. It’s just pitch recognition and laying off balls out of the strike zone. He’s going to see a lot of sliders. He’s got to be able to handle the ones in the zone and spit on the ones that are not.

On the difficulty of possibly keeping Riley at the Triple-A level

What he does to the lineup if he is swinging well is huge. Now, you’ve got dangerous down in the six- or seven-hole. The kid is dangerous. I love [Johan] Camargo. He’s got to play on this team for me somewhere. If he’s not starting, he certainly needs to have a spot. He’s too versatile. He’s a switch-hitter. We’ve seen what he can do a couple years ago. I’m pulling for both guys. We’ll see how the rest of this spring plays out.

On Riley’s defensive potential

He’s a lot better athlete than people give him credit for. He’s a better than average runner. He’s got good range. I think it’s the same as his offensive woes. It’s just confidence. If he gets out there, dives around and makes a couple plays the first week of the season, he’ll be fine. He’s not going to win a Gold Glove this year, but he can certainly do it in the future. He’ll have to earn it. I think he can be every bit as good as I was out there.

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.