07/06/08 10:30 PM ET
Chipper earns All-Star start
McCann to join third baseman at Midsummer Classic in Bronx
By Mark Bowman / MLB.com
When Jones' career is complete, he'll rank with Mantle as one of the greatest switch-hitters of all time, and he'll also have the opportunity to reminisce about the night when he and his father had a chance to be join baseball's elite in the same stadium where Mantle became a legend.
That night will come on July 15, when Jones and Major League Baseball's other top players converge upon Yankee Stadium to participate in the final All-Star Game that will be staged at the historic stadium.
"I think anybody who is anybody wants to be there," Jones said. "My dad has never been [to Yankee Stadium]. So this is an opportunity for us to go and soak up all that is there."
Jones will be there, because fans have shown him great favor by voting the 15-year veteran to be the National League's starting third baseman in this year's All-Star Game. This marks his sixth All-Star selection and fourth election as a starter. Jones ranked third among all NL players in votes, trailing only Philadelphia's Chase Utley and Milwaukee's Ryan Braun.
"A lot of people here in Atlanta stuffed the boxes, and I heard some radio stations promoting and trying to get me in," Jones said. "I appreciate all of that. It's going to be a cool couple of days for me and my family."
Joining Jones at the Midsummer Classic will be Braves catcher Brian McCann, who, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, is the first Brave to be selected an All-Star in each of his first three full Major League seasons. Hank Aaron is the only other Braves player to gain three All-Star selections in his first four full seasons.
"Don't be putting me in that [category]," said a smiling McCann, after being told that he'd actually accomplished something that Aaron and every other player in Braves history had never done.
"This is more special [than the previous two selections]," McCann said. "I think the other two just kind of happened. This year, I thought I should be a part of it. The last couple of years, I kind of went into it blind, and this year, I put myself in position where I could get picked."
McCann, who was part of NL All-Star manager Clint Hurdle's selections, and Los Angeles' Russell Martin will serve as the backup catchers for Chicago's Geovany Soto, whose 15 homers match McCann for the most among Major League catchers.
The 79th Major League Baseball All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and Sportsnet HD and televised around the world by Major League Baseball International, with pregame ceremonies beginning at 8 p.m. ET. ESPN Radio will provide exclusive national radio coverage, while MLB.com will provide extensive online coverage. XM will provide satellite radio play-by-play coverage of the XM All-Star Futures Game.
"I'm thrilled for Chipper and Mac," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "Those guys definitely deserve it. They're having wonderful seasons."
Jones spent the first 10 weeks of this season with a batting average above .400, and he finished Sunday leading the Majors with a .388 batting average and a .485 on-base percentage. His 1.100 OPS (on-base-plus-slugging percentage) ranked third, trailing only Houston's Lance Berkman and St. Louis' Albert Pujols.
With these MVP-caliber credentials, Jones has been anticipating this honor most of the season and looking forward to the day when he could officially tell his father, Larry Wayne Jones, that they'd definitely be going to Yankee Stadium together.
"I invited him to go and he said, 'I only want one thing -- to go out to Monument Grove and stand with me and take a picture next to Mickey's [statue],'" said Jones, whose previous All-Star starts came in 1996, '98, 2000 and '01.
When Jones started in 1996, he took the place of an injured Matt Williams. Each of his other three previous starts have come via fan election. The only time the Atlanta third baseman didn't participate in an All-Star Game from 1996-2001 was during his '99 NL MVP season.
McCann is hitting .293 and his .910 OPS leads all Major League catchers.
When asked if he'd have interest participating in the State Farm Home Run Derby, McCann said he hadn't been asked. But he excitedly responded that he'd be interested. Jones indicated that he likely wouldn't participate.
"The whole thing is that it's at Yankee Stadium," said McCann, who looks forward to sharing this experience with his parents, Howie and Sherry. "That's what makes it better than any of the others."
Jones' highlight moment on the field this season came on June 5, when he hit his 400th career homer. The only switch-hitters in Major League history with more homers are Hall of Famers Eddie Murray and that legend named Mantle.
Now the Braves' third baseman will find the opportunity to share baseball history with his father, who idolized Mantle and attempted to mold his son's game in the likeness of the Yankees legend.
"I've had a lot of great memories in my career," Jones said. "So I'd say [this is] certainly in the top four or five."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.