Chipper Jones held a bat in his hand before the Kansas Stars took the field for Wednesday night’s NBC World Series game. The former Atlanta Braves star took a few swings from the right side. He hadn’t played a game of baseball in five years, and there was some rust to shake off.
“I will be out there pretending to be a baseball player at some point tonight,” he said.
Jones became the most recent addition to the Kansas Stars’ lineup, which features a roster full former Major League Baseball players. Roger Clemens was the biggest name on last year’s squad. Jones, who joined the team Wednesday for its third game this summer, highlights this year’s squad.
The Stars entered the game against the Liberal Bee Jays already assured of a spot in the weekend’s single-elimination tournament as a result of their two previous wins. Jones said he planned to be in the lineup for the duration, which would put him back out on the diamond at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium on Friday night.
Jones had planned to play in last year’s tournament after an invitation from Adam LaRoche, who’s also on the team, but he canceled in the days leading up to the games. He said he feels healthier this year.
“I felt bad for backing out on him last year, but quite honestly I had a bad back,” Jones said. “So it wouldn’t have made much sense to come out here.”
Though Jones has been retired for five years, he hasn’t separated himself from the game completely. He serves as a special assistant for baseball operations for the Braves and recently took batting practice while working with some of the organization’s minor league prospects in Gwinnett, Ga.
He swung the bat well in batting practice, but that’s as close as he’d gotten to live pitching before Wednesday night. He said he enjoyed the atmosphere.
“This is obviously a big tournament in this part of the country. Big leaguers and coaches have come through this tournament, and it’s fun to see what it’s all about,” he said. “It’s been five years since I’ve tried to hit a baseball with malice of forethought, and you miss that bit of competition.”
Braves jerseys dotted the crowd at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium as fans of baseball – and Jones – came out for a rare gathering of baseball’s former best in Wichita.
Justin Murphy of Derby was one of them.
“I live here, and I think it’s awesome to see the eclectic talent here in Wichita,” he said. “I’ve been a Chipper Jones fan since fifth grade.”
Jon Rickard of Andover, who played in past NBC World Series, wore a blue Braves jersey as he waited for the Stars to take the field.
“I’ve been a fan since I was a kid,” he said. “He’s a switch hitter, and I just like how he carried himself in Atlanta.”
NBC World Series
- San Antonio Angels vs. CheneyDiamond Dawgs, 1 p.m.
- San Diego Waves vs. U.S. National Team, 3:30 p.m.
- Seattle Studs vs. Hays Larks, 7 p.m.
- Mulvane Patriots vs. Wellington Heat, 9:30 p.m.