KANSAS CITY — Chipper Jones drew a crowd of reporters and cameramen just about anytime he sat or stood stationary the past two days in Kansas City, where the Braves’ 40-year-old third baseman was treated like a cross between an aging rock star and visiting head of state.
He was the elder statesmen of all All-Stars in K.C., making his eighth and final All-Star appearance before he retires after the season. Jones was joined on the National League All-Star team by fellow Braves Dan Uggla, Michael Bourn and Craig Kimbrel.
“It’s been awesome,” Uggla said of the attention paid to Jones. “He’s kind of like the Godfather or something. Everybody’s just been amazing to him. He’s enjoying it, too. He was a truck or two behind me in the little parade, and he was standing up waving. It looked like they had him on a pedestal. He was standing up and having a blast.”
That was the All-Star Red Carpet Show on Tuesday afternoon, where each All-Star was ensconsed in a pickup truck for a ride through the Country Club Plaza shopping area between fans who lined the streets. Bourn and Uggla each was accompanied by his son on the parade route, and Kimbrel rode with his fiancée Ashley.
Each player was given a box of balls to toss to fans along the parade route.
“I let her throw some of the balls, see what her arm looked like,” Kimbrel said. “She was a cheerleader, so she’s a pretty good athlete.”
Jones had a full truck with his parents and three of his four sons (the other was sick and couldn’t make the trip). It was the first time any of the boys accompanied him on an All-Star trip, who was going to take them with him to Arizona last year – the first time he made the team since 2008 – but had to skip the game to have knee surgery.
“The parade was a blast,” Jones said in the National League clubhouse Tuesday afternoon. “And getting to watch the look on my kid’s face during the home run contest, that was pretty cool. I’ve had a great time. I’m very appreciative of this opportunity, not just for me but for my family. It’s been everything that I wanted it to be.”
He was asked if there was a moment that stood out for him in Kansas City.
“Having a conversation with George Brett,” said Jones, who talked with the former Royals third baseman and Hall of Famer during batting practice Tuesday. “George was one of my guys growing up. I came up as a shortstop and was a huge Cal Ripken fan, but I had in the back of my mind that third base could be in my future one day, and obviously George Brett and Mike Schmidt were the quintessential MVP candidates, best players in their league when I was growing up. So if you could pattern your game after guys like George Brett, you’re going to be a pretty good player.”
Braves fathers and sons
Jones, Uggla and Bourn had their sons on the field with them Monday during batting practice and the Home Run Derby. Things got interesting.
“I actually had to reprimand my youngest [Tristan, 6], because he was throwing every single ball in the stands,” Jones said, smiling. “And I mean hard. I was afraid he was going to break somebody’s nose. Not to mention Major League Baseball is going to send me a bill for thousands of dollars in baseballs given out by my son. I kept telling him to throw it into the bucket, and he kept throwing them in the stands.”
Bourn’s son Bryson, who is almost 3, was frightened by one of the many large team mascots crowded around a field entranceway.
“I said, the mascot ain’t going to do nothing to you,” Bourn said. “I’m not sure which mascot it was. He’s not scared of the Braves mascot. I had to let him know, he ain’t going to do nothing to you. He was all right after that…. My kid’s having a lot of fun. He’s going everywhere with me.”
Bryson wasn’t old enough to accompany Bourn the other time he made the All-Star team in 2010.
“You can only play so many years and every time you get to come here it’s an honor,” he said. “He’s about to turn 3. I don’t know if he’ll remember it well. That means I’ve got to make another one.”