Hall of Fame weekend for Braves legend Chipper Jones

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Larry Wayne Jones Jr. was a throwback, a guy who played for only one major league club and always stayed focused on a single goal -- trying to get better every day. Pressure was an afterthought for the man dubbed Chipper, except perhaps in 1990 at the beginning of his career with the Atlanta Braves organization.

"Maybe my first year in rookie ball there was some pressure. Obviously, I didn't perform," said Jones, who batted just .229 with one homer and 18 RBIs in 140 at-bats in the Gulf Coast League while dealing with a hand injury. "There was some pushback for the Braves taking me."

Any doubts about the switch-hitting overall No. 1 pick of the 1990 draft from the Bolles School in Jacksonville, Florida, quickly faded. In Class A ball the next season, Jones batted .326, hit 15 homers, drove in 98 runs and stole 40 bases. Four years later he was a regular in the Atlanta lineup at age 23 and relishing the journey.

"For me, it was just having fun and playing the game," said Jones, whose nickname surfaced at a young age after family members called him a chip off the old block because he looked so much like his dad. "I never saw a pay stub during my time in the big leagues. I didn't care what I was making. As long as I walked in the clubhouse and I saw my name in the three hole playing third for the Atlanta Braves, that's all that really mattered.

"I just kept my head down and tried to do whatever I could to help us win and let the numbers take care of themselves."

Those numbers -- .303 career batting average, 549 doubles, 468 home runs, 1,623 RBIs -- earned Jones baseball's highest honor, election to the Hall of Fame on the first try. He'll be inducted Sunday with Jim Thome, Vladimir Guerrero, Trevor Hoffman, and former Detroit Tigers teammates Jack Morris and Alan Trammell. Thome also is a first-ballot selection, while Morris and Trammell were picked by a veterans committee last December.

Jones, only the second overall No. 1 draft pick to reach the Hall (Ken Griffey Jr. is the other), couldn't have arrived at a better time for the Braves, who were perennial cellar-dwellers in the NL West. He became a force on most of the Atlanta teams that did a quick about-face and won 14 straight division titles -- and a World Series in his rookie season (1995).

Also part of those Atlanta teams were pitchers Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and John Smoltz, manager Bobby Cox, and general manager John Schuerholz. All five were elected to the Hall of Fame in the past four years, and now Jones will join them.

"Somebody had to score some runs for that pitching staff," Jones said with a chuckle. "It's nice the day has finally come."

It's difficult to imagine what a nerve-wracking scenario it promises to be for Jones -- his wife is pregnant with a son whose name will be Cooper in honor of the special day. Talk about pressure.

"It's going to be a pretty nervous time for me personally," Jones said. "The fact that my wife is due the day after, I'll be looking down at her making sure she's giving me the thumbs-up, making sure she's not going into labor while I'm up on stage... If it does happen, it's going to be an exciting time."