Chipper gets chance to see Kauffman Stadium
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP)
Chipper Jones has played in just about every major league ballpark during nearly two decades of service to the Atlanta Braves. The eight-time All-Star even outlasted a handful of them, such as the old Yankee Stadium.
He'd never stepped foot in Kauffman Stadium until Monday afternoon.
The Braves keep missing visits to Kansas City during interleague play, one of the strange quirks in the schedule. The 40-year-old third baseman has already announced his intention to retire after this season, so this is his chance.
''To be able to say I've played in each and every ballpark, it's not something every player gets to do,'' Jones said before an afternoon batting practice. ''Fortunately, we're having the All-Star game here, otherwise I wouldn't have that opportunity.''
Jones has certainly had a season worthy of being an All-Star.
He's hitting .318 with six homers and 33 RBIs in 49 games, putting him on pace for his best season since 2008, when he led the league with a .368 batting average.
''It's amazing, you know, to play in the league as long as he has and never been to Kansas City. What a way to come here, to make the All-Star team in his final season,'' said Braves closer Craig Kimbrel, who is making his second All-Star game appearance.
''It's awesome just to watch him play this year, to see the things he's doing.''
Royals manager Ned Yost, who is helping to coach the American League team, was on the staff of the Braves when Jones made his debut as a 21-year-old in 1993. He only played in eight games that season, but even then, Yost had a feeling he was destined for greatness.
''You knew this kid was going to be a Hall of Famer,'' Yost said. ''I mean, he was just that talented - switch hitter, young, athletic, tremendous player.''
Jones' prodigious talent carried him to plenty of All-Star games, but there a couple that stood out. One of them was in 2000, when he was the hometown guy playing in Atlanta, and went 3 for 3 with a homer. The other was his first All-Star game, in 1996, at long-gone Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia, though not so much for anything he did on the field.
''Yeah, I was in awe. I kept my mouth shut. I spoke when spoken to, and that was about it,'' he recalled. ''I was in a locker room with Ozzie Smith, Barry Larkin, Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Mike Piazza, I mean, the elite of the elite. I wasn't really sure whether I belonged in the same room with those guys, but you know, I can just remember not wanting to make an impression, you know?''
He made quite an impression, with a hit in two at-bats, a harbinger of things to come.
''There have been a lot of lifelong friendships forged in these All-Star clubhouses over the years,'' Jones said. ''It's an opportunity to learn, and just have a good time.''
KANSAS CITY CONNECTIONS: The Royals could have had quite the outfield: Jose Bautista of the Blue Jays, Carlos Beltran of the Cardinals and Melky Cabrera of the Giants have all passed through Kansas City during their playing careers.
All of them are starting in the All-Star game Tuesday night.
National League manager Tony La Russa got his playing start as an 18-year-old with Kansas City in 1963, back when the franchise was the Athletics. The team moved to Oakland in 1968.
American League manager Ron Washington of the Texas Rangers also has ties to Kansas City. He started off in the Royals' baseball academy, which operated from 1971-75, and in many ways served as a blueprint for modern player development systems.
''I was in the first class of the baseball academy. I don't know how many people knew that,'' Washington said. ''It all started here in Kansas City, and so I'm very proud to be back here.''
Kemp was the captain of the National League for the longball contest, and part of the game involves golden balls that when hit for homers trigger an additional donation to charity.
''Where did I get these shoes from? This is an LA thing,'' Kemp said. ''These are Christian Louboutins. I got them at the store, Barney's.''
Kemp wasn't the only one clad in gold; Carlos Beltran wore golden spikes for the derby.
BRADLEY'S BACK: Phil Bradley was back in Missouri for the All-Star Home Run Derby on Monday night.
Now an official with the players' union, Bradley was an all-Big Eight quarterback for Missouri before becoming an All-Star outfielder for the Mariners in 1985.
He still remembers walking into the Metrodome for the big event, and being struck by the superstars walking in with him: Eddie Murray, George Brett, Tony Gwynn and others.
''I was in my second year in the majors,'' Bradley recalled. ''I was in awe.''
MESSAGE RECEIVED: All-Star closer Chris Perez believes he's won back the Cleveland fans.
When the Indians were rolling in May, Perez said it was a ''slap in the face when you're in first place and last in attendance,'' and wondered why sparse crowds booed the home team.
He blamed fans for bringing a negative vibe that kept free agents such as fellow All-Star Carlos Beltran from signing with Cleveland - and he believes people took the criticism to heart.
''It woke them up a little bit,'' Perez said. ''They're good fans, they're coming out. They're being vocal. I think they just needed a little kick in the butt. It's been a good - a really good two months, or however long it's been - since it happened.''
CROWD PLEASER: Before Carlos Beltran launched the first shot in the All-Star Home Run Derby, players and fans cheered on a brief concert by the Zac Brown Band, a Grammy-winning country music group.
Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper said he's ''absolutely'' a fan of the band, while Indians closer Chris Perez said the band was one of his favorites.
''I like his style,'' Perez said. ''My wife is actually a bigger fan than I am.''
AP Sports Writer R.B. Fallstrom contributed to this report.