ATLANTA -- Before beginning a season without Chipper Jones, the Braves allowed Jones to usher them into a new era that will feature Jason Heyward and the Upton brothers.
Feeling no regrets about retiring at the end of last year, Jones threw out the ceremonial first pitch to Brian McCann before the Braves hosted the Phillies in front of a standing-room-only Opening Day crowd at Turner Field on Monday night.
This year marks the first time since 1995 that the Braves have entered a season without plans of having Jones serve as a key piece of their lineup. Instead of going through all of his pregame preparations on Monday, the retired third baseman spent time laughing with his former teammates and preparing to watch the game from a stadium suite.
"It's weird," Jones said as he sat on the bench during batting practice. "It is what it is. I miss it today. But I won't miss it tomorrow."
Despite receiving overtures from the Yankees and a few other Major League clubs, Jones has not had the slightest bit of temptation to pull a Brett Favre and begin playing again. He claimed that before Monday, he had not picked up a baseball since throwing the ceremonial first pitch before Stetson University's season opener on Feb. 16.
After Jones concluded his pregame duties and country music star Rodney Atkins sang the national anthem, Braves Hall of Fame pitcher Phil Niekro stood on the field with a microphone in hand and declared, "Play ball."
The pregame player introductions provided the hometown crowd a chance to welcome Justin Upton and B.J. Upton, the team's two biggest offseason acquisitions, with a loud chorus of cheers.
"Other guys will tell you when you get traded to a new team, Opening Day is a little bit different," Justin Upton said. "But I feel like I fit right in with these guys. So Opening Day is Opening Day. We're ready to go."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less