Chipper Jones, the amazing third baseman for the Atlanta Braves, announced last week that this would be his final season in Major League baseball. This 19th year – all spent with the same team – will lead him “into the sunset,” he said. He is taking that rare opportunity in sports to retire on his own terms. Coming into this last year, the numbers Jones has already accumulated virtually assure him a spot in the game’s Hall of Fame. He has hit 454 homeruns (33rd best of all time), made 2,625 hits (75th best in the history of the game) and been selected as an All-Star seven times.
Just two weeks ago I had the chance to sit down with Jones, the first player selected in the 1990 draft, while working on a book project. After the interview was complete and we were packing up, Chipper kept offering nuggets that I couldn’t help but note. We were talking about the blessing of growing up playing baseball for his father, a highly respected coach. What a gift it must have been, I suggested, to start your career with that foundation.
“No question,” Chipper said. “My father taught me so much about the fundamentals of the game and that was great.
“But if you really want to look for an advantage, I’d have to credit…” Jones said, pausing for effect, “my mother.”
As Jones guessed, the answer left me puzzled.
“My mom was a professional equestrian and when she rode out in the arena, people watched her,” Chipper said. “When she walked through events, people watched. It wasn’t just about how good she was – and she was good. It was about the way she carried herself. She carried herself like a champion in everything she did and it was noticed.”
There’s a fine line between cockiness and confidence, Chipper said, and his mom made it a point that her son carry himself appropriately. Head up, well prepared, always aware of the eyes that were on him. That confident approach allowed Chipper, especially in his early days in the league, to manage himself when older, more experienced players might be looking for the hot shot youngster to implode.
“How you carry yourself matters,” Chipper said, wrapping up the discussion. “She used to tell me to walk onto EVERY field as if I was the best player on the field. I might not be, but I needed to believe it and, more importantly, I needed to carry myself as if I was.”
Jones said he will continue to walk upright, head high, as he closes out his career. His skills aren’t as sharp as they were in his prime, but you won’t be able to tell from his body language.
Join the Conversation: Anything you focus on as you carry yourself onto your “ballfield” at work? Anyone you work with who sounds like your version of Chipper?