COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- Chipper Jones traveled to Cooperstown for the 2004 Hall of Fame exhibition game that used to be played on an annual basis. The legendary third baseman also proudly watched from afar as other iconic members of the Braves' organization came to upstate New York at some point
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- Chipper Jones traveled to Cooperstown for the 2004 Hall of Fame exhibition game that used to be played on an annual basis. The legendary third baseman also proudly watched from afar as other iconic members of the Braves' organization came to upstate New York at some point over the past four years to receive baseball's greatest honor.
Jones has had mental images of the Baseball Hall of Fame dating back to his childhood, when he learned it was a place reserved to honor legends like Mickey Mantle. But until Tuesday morning, the former Braves third baseman had never stepped for in this hallowed Hall, within which he will now be immortalized alongside baseball's other greats.
"Walking through these doors, it's really awe-inspiring," Jones said. "When I sat down on a bench in front of [an image] of Babe Ruth and all of those guys, I got misty. I don't feel worthy by any means. But to be in the presence of greatness, it's kind of like walking down the tunnel at Yankee Stadium or Fenway Park. All those great players who have walked down that tunnel, you can feel the aura or the ghosts. The same thing is true here."
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Jones' emotions were stirred as he was introduced to a variety of artifacts during a personalized tour of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum he enjoyed with his wife, Taylor, and his agent and childhood friend, B.B. Abbott. Jones was elected in January and will be formally inducted into the Hall of Fame on July 29.
The tour concluded with Jones seeing and signing the spot that has been reserved for his Hall of Fame plaque. The lifelong Brave will be immortalized two spots away from his former general manager John Schuerholz. His plaque will also be approximately 10 yards from the plaques honoring his former manager, Bobby Cox, and former teammates Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz.
"It's pretty cool that six of us from the same organization are going in within a span of four years," Jones said. "I played a little past those guys, but it's nice to finally join them because it's a hallowed fraternity."
As they continue to reside in Atlanta, Jones, Smoltz and Glavine have stayed in contact and occasionally golf together. Maddux occasionally sends his love from his Las Vegas home.
"I got a text from Doggie [Maddux], and all it said was, 'Hey, congrats Larry,' and I could just hear his snide little voice saying it," Jones said. "So, I just said, 'Thank you, Gregory.'"
When Jones returns in July, he'll be joined by his mother, Lynne, and his father, Larry, whose pure appreciation for baseball history extends beyond the love he had for Mantle, the legendary Yankee whose plaque will fittingly rest within diagonal eyeshot of Chipper's.
As Jones made his way through the plaques, he stopped to pay reverant homage to Hank Aaron -- whom Jones simply refers to as "The Greatest Brave" -- Willie Stargell -- who served as Jones' first hitting coach in pro ball -- and Mantle -- whom the former Atlanta third baseman describes as "essentially a god in my house when I was growing up."
"Whenever we went past a piece of memorabilia that was beyond my time, that's when I thought of dad," Jones said. "I can't wait for Induction Weekend for him to be able to experience all of this with his grandkids. He'll be here all day. We'll have to drag him out of here. He'll be like a kid in the candy store."
Jones also fit that same description as he made his way through the Museum on Tuesday. He marveled at how the rules and equipment evolved through the early portion of the tour and soaked in sections devoted to legends like Ruth, Ty Cobb, Mantle, Aaron, and Lou Gehrig.
Along the way, Jones appreciated the chance to see some of the uniforms used in "A League of Their Own," which he considers to be one of his favorite all-time movies. When he came across a section that included one of the old Mattel handheld electronic baseball games, his eyes lit up and he said, "Make sure B.B. sees this. We spent hours playing that game."
When Jones came upon one of Yogi Berra's Most Valuable Player Award plaques, he laughed and said, "Hey, his name was Larry, too."
The sight of Aaron's former locker stirred memories of when Jones used one of those same lockers in the first few years of his career at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium. He was stuck in a corner with Jeff Blauser and Mark Lemke, a duo whose fun-loving irreverence might have only been trumped by Maddux's.
When Jones went to the Hall's basement for the white-glove portion of the tour, he held bats used by Ruth, Honus Wagner, Ted Williams, Eddie Mathews, Eddie Murray and Mike Schmidt. He also proudly handled the bat David Justice used to hit the solo home run that gave the Braves the only run they needed in Glavine's gem in the decisive Game 6 vs. the Indians in the 1995 World Series.
A wide smile broke across Jones' face when he was re-introduced to the bat he used throughout his 20-game hitting streak from June 24-July 21, 2006. Within this span, he tied Paul Waner's Major League record by recording an extra-base hit in 14 consecutive games. "Yeah, you were a good one, ol' buddy," Jones said as he held the bat. "Twenty games and a Major League record. That's pretty awesome."
When Jones and his wife arrived in Cooperstown on Monday, they immediately visited the hospital to make sure they have their bases covered. Taylor is due to give birth the day after the Induction Ceremony, but she has made it adamantly clear she plans to be present.
Upon Taylor's recommendation, the couple has decided their son's first or middle name will be Cooper, in honor of the other special event that will take place this summer.
"It's going to be an awesome summer," Jones said. "Hopefully, he'll wait until we get back home. But it would certainly be apropos if she had him here."
Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.