JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A true sports legend with a Jacksonville connection was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
Third baseman Chipper Jones starred in the major leagues with the Atlanta Braves.
His career between the lines and outside the diamond earned the respect of baseball watchers everywhere.
After Wednesday's announcement, News4Jax spoke with one of Jones' close friends who was his high school teammate at The Bolles School in Jacksonville.
"I met Chipper in 10th grade at Bolles," said Alan Verlander, who played on the baseball team with Jones at Bolles. "We just hit it off ... He played football and I played basketball and then we both played baseball."
Larry Wayne Jones is best known by the name “Chipper.” He will now be known as a Hall of Fame baseball player. He's one of the greatest switch-hitters ever, batting over .300 from both sides of the plate.
"He just had a way about him that you knew he was a special player and that he would do well," said Verlander, who's now CEO of JAXSPORTS Council.
Verlander played college baseball after teaming with Jones their senior year at Bolles.
Bolles has retired Jones' jersey. Now, he'll have another celebration in Cooperstown, New York, on July 29, when he will be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Verlander said he wasn’t surprised the man he calls “C.J.” was picked for baseball’s highest honor.
"He's absolutely deserving of the Hall of Fame," he said. "I think from the way that he has represented the sport of baseball. He has stayed out of all the controversy in baseball. He's your pro baseball player through and through. But then, the statistics speak for themselves."
Jones was an overall No. 1 draft pick coming out of high school in 1990. He also was recruited heavily by colleges, and the University of Miami offered him scholarships both for baseball and football.
Jones followed a path to stardom on the diamond.
"Certainly, for Chipper to be recognized in that limelight and, you know, be considered for the Hall of Fame and then make the Hall of Fame -- you know, I don't think any of us could have imagined it," Verlander said. "But we're really proud of him."
Ninety-seven percent of the voters chose Jones in the balloting.
Jones played 19 seasons with the Braves. He had the third-most home runs by switch-hitters.
Jones was Rookie of the Year in 1995, when he helped Atlanta win the World Series, and he was Most Valuable Player in 1999.
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