LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Now everyone realizes Chipper Jones is not a combination of All-Star third baseman and Pope.
Acknowledging that "it's been a long, hard, lonely off-season," one of the most popular players in Atlanta Braves history admitted Wednesday that past indiscretions cost him his marriage.
Jones and his wife, Karin, are divorcing and the third baseman discussed the painful subject for the first time as pitchers and catchers reported to spring training at Disney's Wide World of Sports.
"I've never been so glad for a baseball season to start," Jones said. "I've thrown myself into my work to try and take my mind off things. Hopefully I'll get this stuff behind me and go through the season without any distractions."
Reached at her Atlanta-area home Wednesday morning, Karin Jones declined to comment for this story.
Chipper Jones admitted for the first time that if he had to do it over again, he would not have gone public with his admission of infidelity last October. Shortly after the Braves lost the National League Championship Series to the Padres, he revealed an affair had produced an illegitimate child and asked for forgiveness. Shortly after, he moved out of the couple's home and into a high-rise apartment in Atlanta.
Now he says the decision to give up his privacy was wrong.
"To go public was a decision Karin and I made together, but it wasn't as much my decision as hers," Jones said. "Obviously, if I would have known what was going to happen a month later, I would have kept it all private. It just didn't work out. In retrospect, why go through all that scrutiny if I don't have to."
It's a sadder and wiser Jones who begins his seventh season with the Braves. Acknowledgment of his infidelity created a firestorm of controversy and he's still feeling the effects. Most fans, he said, have been supportive, but the announcement of his impending divorce is bound to create more headlines.
"It's still there, still part of my everyday life," he said. "But not having it thrown in my face day after day is sort of a relief. That's another reason why I'm excited about the season. I'm tired of talking about it and therefore I'm not going to talk about it."
It's unclear what effect the increased scrutiny of his private life will have on Jones. But if his winter workouts are any indication, he's headed for his best season. Intent on improving his power numbers and his endurance, he's added 20 pounds to his 6-foot-4 frame in four-a-week workouts with the team's strength and conditioning coach, Frank Fultz, and the results are most evident in his arms and shoulders.
Jones, who felt fatigued last September when he hit .269 with only eight RBI, weighed 198 pounds at the end of the season. He checked into camp at almost 220 and says the extra muscle isn't a burden.
"I really wanted to make a concerted effort to up my power numbers and be strong at the end of the season," he said. "I feel I can still steal a base and still have the range at third base. I think I can hold 225-230 and still be quick. I've never been this heavy coming into spring training and I'm anxious to see how my body reacts. If I'm not satisfied, I'll probably trim back down."
Now if he could rid himself of the controversy as easily.
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