Chipper Jones throws out the first pitch in Atlanta's Opening Day game against the Phillies.

Chipper Jones throws out the first pitch in Atlanta's Opening Day game against the Phillies.

ATLANTA — After a season-long tribute to the retirement of Chipper Jones in the 2012, the Braves segued into the 2013 season by sending the former third baseman out to the mound Monday night for the ceremonial first pitch.

It was a nice touch, right down to the tease a jersey-and-jeans-clad Jones provided the sold-out crowd by putting some zip on a fastball he threw for a strike to longtime teammate Brian McCann.

Not bad for a guy who had picked up a ball only once since last October for a ceremonial first pitch at his father’s alma mater Stetson University in February.

“That’s the only ball I’ve thrown since that ball I threw into right field last year in the playoff game,” said Jones, who by now can laugh a little about that error he had in his final game, in the wild card loss to St. Louis.

Opening day is something Jones said he would have come to Turner Field for, whether the Braves invited him to throw out the first pitch or not. He called it one of the top two or three days all year to be in a major league ballpark.

“This place is so vibrant and full of color and so representative of what our organization is about,” Jones said. “I can’t think of any other place I’d rather be today, whether I’m playing or not.”

He did struggle a bit with pronouns, calling the NL East “our division” and then correcting himself. And Jones said it was weird to be back and not playing, but that’s about as far as he would take it.

“I miss it today,” Jones said. “But tomorrow I won’t.”

He was all smiles as he flashed his familiar “I love you” hand signal to the fans from the mound. He watched the game from a suite, holding a cold beverage, wearing a ring on his right hand from the 2008 All-Star game, one of his eight All-Star nods.

His next officially scheduled trip to Turner Field will come on June 28 when his name will be added to the newly-designed facades along the right and left field lines honoring Braves with their jersey numbers retired.

In the meantime, he’ll enjoy just being a fan of the 2013 Braves.

“I’m as excited as all the rest of the fans,” Jones said.