No place like home for Jones
Center fielder sees family, old teammates in trip back to Atlanta
ATLANTA -- Even before his first game back as a visiting player, Andruw Jones on Friday was pleased with his return to Georgia.
Atlanta isn't only where Jones earned his fame and fortune for 11 years, it's also where he makes his home. He rejoined his family at their house on Thursday, saw his children and parents and sister and niece, took 20 minutes of batting practice in his personal batting cage, even got to sleep in his own bed.
"I've got a real nice bed," Jones said. "The bed in L.A., it's rented. No good."
Maybe Jones needs some home cooking, literally and figuratively. Booed by Dodgers fans during the recent homestand, Jones was anticipating a warmer welcome by Braves fans that saw him win 10 Gold Gloves and five All-Star selections.
"The fans here have always been very supportive," Jones said before taking the field. "We had a great run here, winning championships, going to the World Series. The only former player they booed was Tom Glavine, and that's because he was with the Mets. A lot of players come back and they don't really boo. I'm ready to play and get it over with."
Jones was cheered during pregame introductions and was greeted with mostly cheering -- a few boos -- and applause when he led off the bottom of the second inning. The cheering shifted to support for the Braves when Jones took a called third strike.
Glavine, now back with the Braves, expected Jones to be cheered.
"I wouldn't expect him to be treated with anything but with respect," Glavine said. "He did a lot of great things for this organization, was a very important part of the success of this organization for so many years. A kid that everybody saw come through the Minor League system and get to the big leagues and really do some amazing things and arguably one of, if not the best center fielders of all time. Certainly the best center fielder of our generation. He's a special player that the people in this city got to watch for a long time and watch do a lot of great things. So I would hope they would recognize that and show him the appreciation that he deserves, and I have no reason to believe that they won't."
Jones said he understands his chilly reception in Dodger Stadium. He signed a two-year, $36.2 million contract and over the first 2 1/2 weeks is hitting .157 with no homers and two RBIs.
"If you [stink], they're going to boo you," said Jones. "They've got the right to do that. "People have expectations for you to do what you're supposed to do and if you don't do it, then things happen."
Dodgers manager Joe Torre said Jones' approach seemed to improve during this week's three-game series against Pittsburgh.
"He looks like he's found a stance he's comfortable with and his approach is very solid," said Torre. "Hopefully, it will work to his benefit when he steps into the box tonight. I'm sure coming back he has emotional ties here. I remember I came back here [after managing the Braves], thinking they would cheer me, or at least welcome me back, and they booed the heck out of me."
Torre said Jones has been pull-happy, his explanation for Jones' 16 strikeouts in 51 at-bats.
"I know he has the ability to hit straight-away," said Torre.
Bobby Cox, Jones' manager with the Braves, indicated that Dodgers fans will see a better player as the season unfolds.
"A lot of guys struggle early in the year -- we've only played two weeks," said Cox. "He's a great player. He's got a great personality. He comes to win and isn't selfish. He never has been. He's not a player that you boo. He gives you everything he's got. He plays hurt."
How will Glavine feel on Saturday, when he pitches against Jones?
"It's always weird facing Andruw," he said. "Having played with him for as long as I did and knowing the kind of person that he is and his personality, it's always strange. But Andruw, even though he's gotten off to a slow start is still a very dangerous hitter and is still always capable of doing something to hurt you. So you have to be mindful of that. It's the kind of thing that's strange because so many of us appreciate what he did for us, playing behind us and making plays for us so that when you have to face him from time to time it's a little bit weird."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.