Former Braves star Chipper Jones will take over his parents’ 10,000-acre Double Dime Ranch in southwest Texas. (Herald file photo)
ATLANTA — After a year of golfing, hanging with his sons, and watching a lot of baseball, Chipper Jones is ready to roll his sleeves up again — as a rancher.
The former Braves third baseman, who has made Atlanta his home for the past 22 years, is preparing to move to his ranch in southwest Texas and take over the commercial hunting operation that has been run by his parents, Larry and Lynne Jones.
With a goal of making sure the ranch can pay for itself, Jones will host hunts, immersing himself in a passion that’s been a close second to baseball throughout his life.
“I always had in the back of my mind, even throughout my playing days, that I would retire out there one day,” Jones said. “It is without a doubt my favorite place on the planet.”
Jones said he always figured that day would come after his sons graduated from high school, but with the hunting business struggling in recent years, he moved up the timetable.
He is determined to get the 10,000-acre Double Dime Ranch, named for the No. 10 jersey both he and his father wore, on better financial footing.
His goal is to sell 75 deer hunts for next hunting season. This deer hunting season isn’t over, and as word has begun to trickle out about his plans, he’s gotten nearly 30 hunts on the books. They sold about a half-dozen last year.
“It’s very hard to get enough business in to make this place pay for itself,” Larry Jones said. “As soon as we started putting his name out as going to be here, whoa, business just flocked.”
Jones said his youngest sons, Trey 13, Shea, 9, and Tristan, 8, will remain in Atlanta with their mother, with whom he shares custody, but they’ll make regular visits to the ranch. And his oldest son Matthew, 15, who lives in Michigan, hopes to spend a considerable amount of time in Texas to work with his father and grandfather on his baseball skills. He hopes to play professionally.
Jones’ girlfriend, Taylor Higgins, and her 3-year-old son Bryson will move to Texas as well, taking part in running the hunting business.
“Everybody in the family enjoys it,” Jones said. “Everybody hunts. My three oldest have all harvested deer, including Shea. He killed one last year when he was 8.”
As for hosting all the hunters who come to the Double Dime, Jones said he looks forward to that as well. It will be his top priority during hunting season, over traveling the Midwest to get footage for “Major League Bowhunter,” a show he hosts on the Sportsman Channel.
“I’m a guy who loves deer camp,” Jones said. “I like meeting new people and hanging out with them around a campfire and the dinner table and just shooting the breeze and answering questions. I enjoy all that.”
Jones plans to move to Texas by the end of the summer, as soon as renovations are complete on the house he typically uses for short visits.
Jones has lived in Atlanta since 1992, when he was making his way up the minor league ladder as the Braves’ No. 1 draft pick in 1990. He plans to keep his home in Roswell, at least for the first year or so, “in case we get cold feet, but I don’t expect that to happen.”
Jones’ parents chuckle at the thought of Chipper enduring his first summer in the south Texas heat. “We had one summer where we had 97 straight days of over 100 degrees,” his father said. The pace of living 10 to 15 miles away from the nearest town is a lot different from Atlanta. “You can’t go to a concert once a week,” Lynne Jones said. “And go out to a nice dinner and a movie and stuff like that.”
They have two full-time ranch hands who help with the cattle business and the horses for his mother, a professional equestrian. But there is plenty of work ahead for Jones. For a guy who grew up on a 10-acre fern farm in tiny Pierson, Fla. it’s like coming full circle. His parents are both “super excited” about it, Lynne said.
“He has always known what he wanted and gone for it,” she said. “So I’m sure not going to stand in his way on this one. He’s a lot like his dad in that.”
His dad still thinks Jones will get back into baseball at some point down the road, whether it’s coaching or broadcasting or both. Jones said he still envisions that at some point in the future, but his immediate plans are taken care of. In the meantime, “I’ve got cable,” Jones said.
Jones’ relationship with the Braves has been a little strained lately, after the team took exception to his prediction on an Atlanta radio show that the Braves would lose their division series in four games. Rather than sending a player to catch Jones’ ceremonial first pitch before Game 1 against the Dodgers, the Braves had team mascot “Homer” do it, which Jones took as a sign of disrespect. Rather than walking back through the dugout, he went straight into the stands and didn’t go the clubhouse like he often does after games.
“It’s nothing that I won’t get over,” Jones said this week. “In fact, I’m pretty much over it now. It’s just some things were said that I didn’t appreciate and obviously I said some things that weren’t appreciated.”
Jones said he gave his unbiased opinion as a regular broadcast contributor and thought it should have been taken “with a grain of salt and brushed off.” Ultimately, he turned out to be correct. The Braves lost to the Dodgers in four games.
Don’t be surprised to see Jones at Turner Field some this summer before he moves.
“I’m sure one of these days you’ll see me back around in some way shape or form,” Jones said.