Where Are They Now? Andruw Jones
Andruw Jones has been a longtime favorite of Baseball America, and for good reason. He won the Minor League Player of the Year award in back-to-back seasons, he twice topped our Top 100 Prospects ranking and, at age 19, he became the youngest player to homer in the World Series.
So it was nice to catch up with the 40-year-old, ever-smiling Jones at the hot stove banquet in Charleston, S.C. He works these days as a special assistant in the front office of the Braves, the club he signed with at age 16 out of Willemstad, Curacao, and the one he won 10 consecutive Gold Gloves for during Atlanta’s run as National League pennant contender.
Jones finished his 17-year major league career with .254/.337/.486 hitting numbers and 434 home runs. Among outfielders, only Hall of Famers Willie Mays and Roberto Clemente, with 12, won more Gold Gloves than Jones.
Yet Jones barely survived the 5 percent threshold in February to remain on the Hall of Fame ballot, garnering 7.3 percent of the votes in his first try.
“First of all, I am very humbled and appreciative of being on the ballot,” Jones said. “A lot of people who play the game don’t get the chance to get on the ballot . . . To get the 7.3 percent I got is an honor. It’s a long run.”
Jones was one of the first players to sign a contract out of Curacao, the tiny Caribbean island of 160,000 just off the northern coast of Venezuela.
“I thank my parents,” Jones said. “When I signed that contract, they told me, ‘It’s a big decision. It’s a big step. You didn’t finish high school. You didn’t finish school yet, and you’re going to America, a place that is so big and there are so many opportunities.’ It’s hard.”
In addition to speaking his native Papiamento, Jones was fortunate to have a working knowledge of English when he began playing in the lower reaches of the Braves’ minor league system in 1994. He claimed his first Minor League POY award in 1995, but his prospect stock really began to boom in 1996, when he climbed from high Class A Durham to Double-A Greenville to Triple-A Richmond. He won a second POY award for his .339/.421/.652 season that included 34 home runs and 30 stolen bases.
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A September callup to Atlanta landed Jones on the Braves’ playoff roster, and ultimately in the 1996 World Series, where he homered in his first two at-bats at age 19.
He said he is most proud of his longevity in the major leagues as well as his proficiency on defense. Now, he said, he can pass along the wisdom gained during his playing days to Braves prospects, specifically players from his native country, such as second baseman Ozzie Albies.
“We’ve got a lot of kids right now from the island, and I am very proud of them,” Jones said. “I can’t wait for them to continue to be successful and raise the name (of Curacao) to the top, where we need it to be.”