Chipper Jones has put on plenty of hitting clinics in his 19-year career — just ask the 1999 New York Mets — but the recently retired Atlanta Brave particularly enjoyed his post-retirement hitting clinic at West Manor Park.
On Thursday morning the City of Atlanta and the Atlanta Braves Foundation helped refurbish West Manor Park near Benjamin E. Mays High School in Atlanta in honor of future Hall of Famer. West Manor is the first of several youth ballparks to be renovated in Jones’ honor.
The Atlanta Braves Foundation plans to remodel 10 baseball parks over the course of two years in an effort to reinvigorate baseball in urban and inner-city communities. Since the Atlanta Braves Foundation inaugural year in 1992, the organization has raised more $5 million dollars for civilian financial assistance.
“One of the initiatives as we were sitting down last year and thought of how we could honor Chipper for what he has meant to the city of Atlanta was to create a legacy by renovating several ballparks in his name,” said Braves general manager Frank Wren, who was on hand for the festivities. “We want to inspire the young kids in this community to play baseball and fall in love with baseball.”
The Atlanta Braves Foundation scouted several parks in the Atlanta area looking for the right place to start its project. With the help of Atlanta council members and Executive Director of the Atlanta Braves Foundation Ericka Newsom-Hill, the Atlanta Braves chose West Manor Park as its first renovation project.
“We went and visited five fields that we could potentially refurbish and eventually decided that this park would be the one we wanted to start with,” said Hill, who is also Director of Community Affairs for the Atlanta Braves. “We made a lot of improvements here and now we just want the kids to play here on a regular basis.”
Some of the remodeling of West Manor Park included new fences, remodeled benches in the dugouts, lights and a manicured playing field. After a ribbon cutting ceremony and a few photos with fans, Chipper Jones threw out the ceremonial first pitch then took to the field to help coach an eager group of about 30 kids on the fundamentals of hitting.
“I’m from a little, small town and I grew up playing on not quite as nice a field as this,” said Jones, who has personally donated close to $1.5 million in humanitarian efforts. “If we can come out and give these kids the focus to become the next Hank Aaron or Jason Heyward, then that’s what we want to try and do.”
The former Braves third baseman will have his number retired against the DiamondBacks Friday night at Turner Field, becoming just the 10th player retired by the team in franchise history. Jones hinted that he would have plans in the future of returning to the game he loves in some capacity, but for right now he is happy with his life after retirement.
“To be able to leave a lasting legacy is something that we all want,” Jones said. “So I want these kids to know that someone can make it to the big leagues from modest beginnings and that dreams can come true.”
(Photo: Chipper Jones is presented a certificate by Atlanta council member Michael Julian Bond. Photo by Horace Holloman III)