by Bobby Markos
Somebody somewhere on some forum with some presumed authority predictably asks the question every time a non-NASCAR or non-racing guest appears on The Dale Jr. Download. Why?
The answer is because, contrary to popular belief, The Dale Jr. Download is not a racing podcast. It’s a whatever-the-hell-Dale-wants podcast. Or a whoever-interests-Dale-this-week podcast. Dale doesn’t do a podcast for numbers. He does it for himself.
This week the whoever-interests-Dale person was former baseball great and 2018 Cooperstown Hall-of-Fame inductee Chipper Jones. Rather than waste time wondering ‘Why Chipper?’ the better question is “What about Larry “Chipper” Jones intrigues Dale to the point of inviting him to Mooresville, NC to chat?” Here’s a stab:
There is a common thread among professional athletes, no matter the sport, and it usually relates to a blessed beginning, a memorable journey, and an abrupt end. It’s the last part that pro athletes have most in common. Very few know how to deal with the reality of being mortal, must less damaged goods. Dale was one of the lucky ones. His after-racing life has purpose. He wondered if Chipper’s did too.
There’s also this – Chipper enjoys racing. He grew up about 20 minutes from Daytona International Speedway, a place that would turn him into a fan at an early age. His abilities in football and baseball would lead him away from ever pursuing a career in racing, but this week’s Download brings him full circle with one of the best to ever race at Chipper’s home track.
Dale Jr. and co-host Mike Davis ask Chipper about his rise through the world of baseball, from getting drafted by the Atlanta Braves in 1990, to ascending through the minor league system and winning the 1995 World Series. Jones gives a lot of interesting insight into the rigorous world of the minor leagues, a structure designed to help players develop the ability to deal with anything they may come across in the MLB.
The subject of “innovation”, or cheating if you will, is a recurring topic of discussion at the Download table, and Chipper was more than willing to pull the curtain back on professional baseball and tell listeners how it used to be done. The guys discuss pine tar and rosin, as well as corking bats. They also get into the pranks that used to go down in the locker room, and who you had to watch your back around in the MLB scene.
As the conversation unfolds, Jones gives in depth perspective on playing in the World Series, the training pro ball players go through and recalls hanging out with Dale Earnhardt Sr. before a Daytona 500 one year. Listeners can expect a great conversation between two sports giants getting to know each other’s craft.
Additional reading about Chipper Jones:
Born in DeLand, Florida, Jones is an American professional baseball success story, rising from a Hall of Fame caliber high school career at the Bolles School to being the first pick in the 1990 Major League Baseball draft, signing on with the Atlanta Braves. Once there, Jones would rapidly progress through the Braves’ minor league circuit playing for the Macon Braves, the Durham Bulls, the Greenville Braves and the Richmond Braves.
After 139 games in Richmond, he was called up to the major leagues and made his debut on September 11th, 1993 as the youngest player in the league. In 1994, he suffered what could have been a disastrous injury for his budding career, a torn ACL during spring training. Fortunately, his time missing from the field was offset by a strike-shortened season, and he returned in 1995 to lead the league’s rookies in RBIs, games played, games started, plate appearances, at bats and runs scored. These numbers were an integral part of the Braves success at the time, who made back to back World Series appearances winning over the Indians in ‘95 and losing to the Yankees in ‘96.
Jones would immortalize his personal career by winning the National League MVP in 1999 by becoming the first batter in history to hit .319 with 45 home runs. This achievement was solidified by his performance in a September-series against Braves’ rivals the New York Mets, in which Jones hit four homers and batted in seven of 13 total runs to help sweep the series. The effort helped lead the Braves to another World Series showdown, where they once again lost to the Yankees.
By the time Jones retired in 2012 after 19-years in the Majors, he had the most runs batted-in for a third baseman in league history. Other career accolades include eight All-star appearances, two Silver Slugger Awards and a league batting championship in 2008. His contributions to the Braves organization led to his number “10” being retired and his 2013 induction into the Braves Hall of Fame. He was also inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2018.
Away from his playing career, Jones is now a batting coach for the Braves. He also is a hunting enthusiast, and has hosted hunting television shows like Outdoor Channel’s “Buck Commander” and the current Sportsman Channel program, “Major League Bowhunter”.
-- Dirty Mo Media --