Year after year, the Athletics Department at Mercer continues to exceed its expectations and outdoes the previous year with high-profile speakers and remarkable talents roaming the halls of the University Center.
In four years, Mercer has hosted the likes of college basketball legends such as the outspoken Dick Vitale, the former Duke Blue Devil Jay Bilas and the inspiring wisdom of CBS analyst Clark Kellogg. The talent level continues to rise for the baseball visits as Mercer continues to attract the eyes of former Braves such as outfielder Jeff Francoeur and the legendary John Smoltz. This year, the Bears family welcomes another Braves legend to its fourth annual First Pitch Classic. This time, Macon welcomes the current All-Star third baseman and future Hall of Famer, Larry Wayne “Chipper” Jones, Jr.
Sponsored by Macon Occupational Medicine and in-time to kick off the baseball and softball seasons at Mercer, the 39-year-old Chipper comes to the UC Arena on Feb. 7, 2012.
If anyone is qualified enough to speak to a crowd of young, aspiring athletes, this 17-year veteran fits the bill. Playing all of his seasons at the Atlanta Braves, Chipper’s name is synonymous with the Atlanta baseball franchise.
Undoubtedly one of the best switch hitters of all time, Jones has made his mark on the game of baseball since his inception in 1993. Hitting an impressive .304 in his career, Jones currently ranks second all-time among switch hitters in career RBIs (1,561) and is third in career home runs by a switch hitter (454).
The seven-time All-Star is a native of Deland, Fla. and was the first overall pick in the 1990 MLB Draft at the young age of 18. After making his debut in 1993, Jones quickly blossomed into a perennial All-Star as he worked his way to an eventual NL MVP award in 1999. Through the years, Jones continued to show signs of consistency as his average continued above .300 leading him to an NL Batting Title in 2008. That season, Jones hit a remarkable .364 and tied a MLB record for consecutive seasons with 20 or more home runs to start your career (14).
In his time with the Braves, Jones and then manager Bobby Cox would lead the club to 14-consecutive NL East Division titles including a World Series Championship in 1995.
All-in-all, Chipper Jones brings a definite sense of experience and knowledge to a small university whose athletic programs could always use a little pep talk before the beginning of a season. The community, staff and student body were thrilled to hear the news of this year’s speaker. “When you think of the Atlanta Braves organization and all the great players that have come through there over the years, Chipper Jones is one of the first players that comes to mind because of the way he handles himself both on and off the field,” said head baseball coach Craig Gibson. “For us to be able to have him come down to this event and help us open our 2012 season is a very special honor,” he added.
The night is sure to be filled with stories, introductions and hopes of a successful season to come for both the Bears and the Braves.
The event is open to athletes and those who wish to donate to Mercer’s baseball program. The autograph session begins at 6:00 p.m. in the President’s Dining Room and the dinner begins at 7:00 p.m. in the UC Arena.
For more information on the event or to make a reservation, contact Mercer Baseball Director of Operations Jason Farhadi, at (478) 301-5218 or by email at [email protected]