Chipper Jones couldn’t wait to exchange his bat for his bow.
A month into his retirement, Jones already has taken hunting trips to Oklahoma and Kansas, where he killed a deer, and is now headed to Nebraska.
“(We’re) off to a good start,” he said.
Jones has hunted about as long as he has played baseball. Hunting is a passion that often consumed his offseasons during his 19 years with the Atlanta Braves. When baseball ended, often, appropriately enough, during deer season, hunting began.
“He’s enjoying himself,” longtime teammate Brian McCann said Saturday before his Rally Foundation’s annual celebrity softball game to raise money for childhood cancer. “He’s hunting and spending time with his kids. He’s loving it.”
Sometimes Jones’ trips take him on a tour of the Great Plains.
Sometimes he goes to his family’s 9,000-acre Texas ranch called the Double Dime, named that because both Jones and his dad wore No. 10 during their playing days.
Jones has been able to parlay his love for hunting into hunting shows. His first was called “Buck Commander,” which followed Jones and former teammates Adam LaRoche and Ryan Langerhans and country music artists Luke Bryan and Jason Aldean on their pursuit of deer. His second show, called “Major League Bowhunter,” is shown weekly on The Sportsman Channel.
No coincidence, the show’s logo bears a remarkable resemblance to the MLB logo.
When Jones thrilled his fans by joining Twitter (@RealCJ10) in late July, his second tweet was about the Braves.
His third? About hunting, specifically his new show: “For u hunters out there, I’m no longer on (‘Buck Commander’) full time, tho u will see me on some shows. Major league bowhunter is my new baby on sportsmans.”
Jones retired after the Braves’ season ended with a 6-3 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League wild-card playoff game on Oct. 5. He made a costly fourth-inning throwing error in his last game, a poor conclusion to a final season in which he hit several clutch home runs, had a five-hit game and singled in his final All-Star game at-bat to go with many other special moments.
Jones hit .287 with 14 homers and 62 runs batted in this season and is considered a first-ballot Hall of Famer as one of only five players — along with Lou Gehrig, Stan Musial, Babe Ruth and Ted Williams — in MLB history with at least 2,500 hits, 1,500 walks, 1,500 runs, 500 doubles, 450 home runs and 1,500 RBI with career batting average of .300, a .400 on-base percentage and a .500 slugging percentage.
He hasn’t missed baseball yet but expects he will in about four months, when Jones won’t do something he’s been doing since the early 1990s.
When the Braves report for spring training, he won’t be with them.
“Usually, around the end of January, I start getting the itch to go back and start playing,” Jones said at the softball game on Saturday. “That’s probably when I need to go on a trip somewhere. I’ll just have to get away and not read the newspaper and not watch TV, and just kind of let them get started without me. I’m sure I’ll make an appearance down in spring training, just to play some golf and hang out for about a week. After that, I’m going to leave it up to them.”
He spent Saturday morning coaching two of his four boys’ flag football game before playing in McCann’s celebrity softball game.
“I didn’t think I’d be strapping on these cleats quite so soon, but here we are,” Jones said.
His swing hadn’t deserted him in a month — Jones hit three home runs in the home run derby.
His love of the hunt gave himself and the Braves a scare last November, when he hurt his right knee after falling into a hole while hunting in Kansas. Jones heard a pop and thought for sure he would miss a good portion of his final year, but the MRI showed no serious injury.
On “Major League Bowhunter,” Jones and hunting partners Matt Duff and Jeff Danker video their hunts, supplementing them with overviews of the area they’re hunting and graphics of wind direction, their approach and their target area.
Jones said Danker also has killed a deer on the show.
“Bowhunting is the ultimate,” Jones said on his show’s website, “and I find so many similarities with baseball in that you can always learn new things that can improve your odds of success if you just soak up all the knowledge you can and learn from all your experiences!”