Not hard to pick young Chipper out of crowd

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- First time Bobby Cox, the Braves legendary manager, laid eyes on Chipper Jones, Cox was playing a game with then-Atlanta vice-president Paul Snyder.

Cox, then working as the Braves' general manager before replacing Russ Nixon in the dugout later that year, would accompany Snyder on various scouting trips to see high school and college players. Once they arrived at the field, Cox would silence Snyder.

"Don't tell me which players we're looking at," Cox would tell Snyder.

Then he would proceed to scan the players as they warmed up and guess.

Bobby Cox always guessed wrong, until he and Snyder arrived one spring day at Bolles High School in Jacksonville, Fla., as they were preparing for the 1990 draft.

"I turned to Paul and I said first row, third guy from the right," Cox said Thursday. "Paul looked at me and said, 'You finally got one right!'"

Even as a high school senior, Jones' size, stature and talent was impossible to miss.

Speaking to a small group of reporters after the press conference, Jones chuckled. As a kid who grew up in Central Florida, finished high school in Jacksonville and was praying to be drafted by a Southern team, you bet he remembers that day.

It was no secret that the Braves were considering using their first pick on schoolboy pitcher Todd Van Poppel.

"I remember seeing both of them there," Jones said of Cox and Snyder. "And I can remember having the most perfect day at the ballpark I've ever had.

"They were in the stands and I remember thinking, 'If there's another person on the planet that they take in front of me, I'd like to see the guy'"

With signability concerns over Van Poppel, who was threatening to accept a scholarship to the University of Texas, the Braves took Jones first. Oakland wound up taking Van Poppel No. 14 overall and signed him.

"I remember wondering how life would be different if I had been drafted by Seattle or Pittsburgh," Jones said. "I'm grateful Van Poppel didn't want to play here, because I would have given my right arm to play here."

Sunblock Day? Hot, hot, hot in the Orlando area today. Mid-to-upper 80s. Slather on that sunblock, baby.

Likes: Chipper Jones always has been chatty and honest. One of the best interviews in the game, I'm not alone in saying I'm going to miss him when he's no longer with the Braves. Love the way he made his decision with no messing around. "I want to get all the speculation out of the way right here in spring training, so that wherever me and my teammates go, I'm not answering questions about when I'm going to hang it up," he said. ... Funny moment came when he said, in anticipating any retirement gifts he may receive in traveling around the league this summer, he won't need a "rocking chair" like Bobby Cox. ... Good battle at shortstop going between Tyler Pastornicky and Andrelton Simmons. Too close to call at the moment. ... The Bruce Springsteen Wrecking Ball tour comes to Tampa, Fla., on Friday night, and I think we could hold a national Baseball Writers' Association of America meeting at the show. Gonna be fun.

Dislikes: Slow traffic on I-4 between Tampa and Orlando this morning because of a crash. What a shock.

Rock 'n' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Well I was raised up beneath the shade of a Georgia pine
"And that`s home you know
"Sweet tea, pecan pie and homemade wine
"Where the peaches grow
"In my house it's not much to talk about
"But it`s filled with love that's grown in southern ground
"And a little bit of chicken fried
"Cold beer on a Friday night
"A pair of jeans that fit just right
"And the radio up
"Well I`ve seen the sunrise
"See the love in my woman's eyes
"Feel the touch of a precious child
"And know a mother's love"

-- Zac Brown Band, Chicken Fried

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