Hello everybody and welcome to what is hopefully going to become a continuing series of interviews featuring former Braves alums where we get insight on their past and see what they are up to now. First up is 10 time Gold Glover, five time All-Star, and Braves Hall of Famer Andruw Jones.
Andruw hit .254/.337/.486 over an incredible 17 years, 12 of which were with Atlanta that saw him amass a .263/.342/.497 with 368 home runs, 1117 RBI, 138 stolen bases along with all 10 of his Gold Gloves, a Silver Slugger, and 5 All-Star game nods. In 2005, Jones had his best year of his career where he accumulated 7.9 fWAR while hitting .263/.347/.575 (134 wRC+) with 51 homers, while also having 15 DRS and a 26.2 UZR.
Fast forward to today and he’s just as busy as ever. Alongside being a special assistant to the GM for the Braves, Andruw also spearheads charitable events via the Andruw Jones Foundation, travels/watches his son Druw compete (likely a lottery pick when he is draft eligible - go look at his PerfectGame profile if you don’t believe me).
He has also just announced a new business venture as he has partnered with an Atlanta based daily fantasy sports company named PrizePicks.
What was it like to play in that first World Series? I mean you’re 19 years old and had like 100 PAs on your resume at that point. What was going through your head? Or did it not bother you being so young and likely very confident after all the hype and success he had coming up?
Everything started in High-A that year and I was having a great year. No one in the minors knew me. I was not anything, just going out there and having fun.
What was it like to start and finish your career with two storied franchises? You got to play with the likes of Maddux, Smoltz, Glavine, Chipper, CC, Jeter, A-Rod - what was it like being able to play with some historic members of baseball history?
I’m always going to thank the Braves for giving me the chance to sign at such a young age and play for them the longest. On the Braves, I played for a HOF manager and with a HOF player, batting in front and behind him for a time. Playing behind three HOF pitchers was great, then to have the chance to play for the Yankees for two years, a team I played against twice in the World Series with all the history the Yankees have is awesome!
What has impressed you the most about Ronald Acuña? More specifically, his development?
Well, Bobby Cox told me about him and I went to see him and his talent is off the charts. He has all the tools, it was just a matter for him to put it all together and he is doing it now. He’s a very special kid.
What have you liked the most about this year’s Braves team? What has surprised you the most?
Nothing surprised me since last year. I’m just amazed how they can score in the late innings. They know they can hit and that is special. And it’s not just a couple of guys, it’s the whole team.
With Mike Soroka pitching in Game Three - can you give us your personal scouting report of him?
Don’t know if he is but special kid, great arm with late movement. Great control for being so young!
Describe to us what was going through your mind while you were in center? What are things you would look for that would impact your defensive positioning?
All that is going through my mind is hit the ball to me because I believe in my ability to make the play. Center is a prime position like shortstop or catcher.
The ball is just flying off of the bat right now with home run records being shattered left and right. We just saw the Twins put up over 300 homers as a team this year ALONE! How many homers do you think you would hit with the new baseball?
Well, a lot of people are talking about the ball flying out this year. These guys now are strong, but you still have to hit the ball. I can’t say because I’m not playing now but it would be a fun time if I was playing.
Curacao is now a seemingly hotbed of elite baseball talent with players getting scouted and signed from there every single year. Do you feel partly responsible for it? Do you talk to players from there and talk about your journey and how they can succeed?
Curacao always had talent in baseball, so many kids signed before me, before I ever signed. I think after me they started being more open to giving guys from Curacao a chance to play. I’m not saying they didn’t before but now much more. I was doing a lot for youth baseball in Curacao and then I pass it to Kenley Jansen.
What was it like being scouted and signed at such a young age? By 17 you were already playing professional baseball (impressive .780 OPS at such a young age) - what was it like leaving home and starting your career at that age? Have any words of advice for those embarking on a similar path?
Well, I signed at 16 and played at 16. That was my dream. Talent was there but hard work and great coaches got me where I got. Leaving home at a young age is tough, but my parents were very open to my leaving the island to play ball in the Caribbean and stuff.
What was the hardest thing about starting your professional career at that age, in another country?
Well I didn’t think anything was hard. I think the adjustment on language was all. Even though you know English, you don’t speak it that much. Making adjustments with other people, so many characters.
Favorite minor league story?
So many stories. I had no problem with bus rides going to so many towns and across the country. Living with new families, sleeping in living rooms or on the floor so many times. Getting on flights so many times.
Favorite major league story?
Well, 17 years, that’s my favorite story!
Top professional accomplishment?
Playing professional baseball and accomplishing all that I did is my top accomplishment.
Craziest story during your playing career?
So many, Bobby taking me out of the game, the team plane flying through a storm from Puerto Rico to USA after we played there.
Who did you hate to face the most?
So many pitchers out there had my number, one guy I didn’t like to face was Kevin Brown. He was tough.
What has life after baseball been like? What have you been up to since you retired from all of professional ball?
It’s been great, got a job with the Braves as a special assistant to the GM. I watch my son play ball, playing lots of golf and traveling.
What is PrizePicks and how are you involved?
PrizePicks, I love how easy it is to play and I’m very involved with them.
Tell me more about the Andruw Jones Foundation - what is your vision for the foundation and how can someone get involved and help?
The AJ25 Foundation is focused on work with youth baseball facilities and youth education. I want to help the kids that don’t get the opportunity to chase their dreams.