BRADENTON, Fla. -- Chipper Jones wasn't satisfied with just lending his name to one of the four teams at the inaugural PDP League and spending a day taking in game action.
The Hall of Fame third baseman wanted to do hands-on work with the 80 top high school prospects for the 2020 Draft. So he'll spend today through Wednesday at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, making himself available to the attendees as much as they want.
"This will kind of give me my coaching fix for a little bit," said Jones, who spends a couple of weeks with the Braves during Spring Training and pops in to help the organization a few times during the course of the season. "I want to give these guys the opportunity to experience something I wasn't able to at 17 or 18. A lot of these guys are about to go through a pretty serious transition in their careers, and I want to help prepare them for that."
A collaborative effort between MLB and USA Baseball, the PDP League has brought many of the nation's best rising seniors together for three weeks of games and instruction from All-Stars and Hall of Famers such as Jones, Derek Jeter and Barry Larkin. Forty players will be chosen to play in a High School All-Star Game in Cleveland on July 6 as part of All-Star Weekend. USA Baseball also will use the League as part of its process for selecting its team for September's 18-and-under World Cup in Busan, South Korea.
Jones addressed the full group of 80 PDP players Monday morning, then took questions and answers until the pitchers and catchers had to depart to prepare for a morning workout. He remained and discussed hitting with the remaining position players for another 45 minutes.
He congratulated players on getting selected to wear "USA" across their chests, an honor he wasn't afforded until he was 33 years old at the 2006 World Baseball Classic. He emphasized that while the players' abilities have gotten them to this point, their mental toughness will determine who keeps climbing toward the big leagues.
"Teams want to find out who are the guys who grind it out, who are the guys who grind out at-bats," said Jones, the No. 1 overall pick in the 1990 Draft who went on to make eight All-Star teams while winning a World Series championship (1995), a National League MVP award (1999) and a batting title (2008). "They want to find out who's tough enough to get to the next level.
"You've got an opportunity I didn't have at 17 or 18 years old, so soak it up. I don't know anyone on the planet who likes to talk hitting more than I do, so ask me questions."
Similarly, Jones pointed out that hitting is as much physical as it is mental. During his 19 seasons in the Majors, he would prepare for games by watching video of the opposing starter's last three outings as well as of any relievers he expected to face.
"I want to impress upon you guys that you all have ability to hit, you all have feel to hit but it's what you've got up here that matters," said Jones, pointing to his head. "You've got to be able to think. You've got to be able to do your homework."
Lake Mary (Fla.) High School outfielder Dylan Crews, a projected first-round pick in next year's Draft, said Jones is adding to what already has been an incredible PDP League experience.
"The advice he gave to us, the experience he has -- it's unbelievable learning from a Hall of Famer like that," Crews said. "I'm looking forward to the next three days working with him."