Over 70 players from the Israel baseball Enrichment Program were treated to a special practice run by former Atlanta Braves center fielder Andruw Jones on June 10 at the Baptist Village. Visiting Israel on vacation, Jones, 41, made a special effort to come and coach the local players. He was visiting with friend and sports agent Orlando Cepeda Jr. Currently serving as Special Assistant to the Braves General Manager, Jones focuses on working with kids around the world, and on developing the sport.
Born and raised on the small Caribbean island of Curaçao, Jones was only 16 years old when he signed with the Atlanta Braves organization as a free agent in 1993. He debuted with the Braves in 1996, and in the World Series that year, Jones became the youngest player ever to hit a home run in the postseason, and the second player ever to homer in his first two World Series at bats. He added a long list of achievements in his 11 years with the Braves, including 5-Time All-Star (2000, 2002–03, 2005–06); 10-Time NL Gold Glove Award Winner (1998-2007); leading the majors with 51 home runs in 2005; NL Silver Slugger Award in 2005, NL Hank Aaron Award as the league's best offensive player in 2005; and many more. Between 2008 and 2012 he played for the LA Dodgers, the Texas Rangers, the Chicago White Sox and the New York Yankees.
Jones also played on the Netherlands national team in 2013 the World Baseball Classic and was a bench coach for Team Netherlands at the 2017 WBC. He fondly recalls that Team Israel 2017 manager Jerry Weinstein was his coach in junior college in 1989-90.
During his trip, he spent time in Jerusalem, the Dead Sea and even at the border with Syria. He and Orlando were excited by the local food, especially the hummus. Jones even hinted that he is looking forward to coming back to Israel.
During the practice, he shared his knowledge and experience, working one-on-one with the players and focusing on the fundamentals. He also answered players’ questions during a Q&A and signed every last autograph.
After the practice, Jones was positive about what he had seen. “There’s talent, I can see the passion in their eyes to get better. They listen and are willing to learn. Some are raw and some have it. It’s about being patient, helping them, and preaching the eight thing so they can understand the game.” He is optimistic about the Israel Baseball trajectory: “If they keep playing, one day there will play a player (from Israel) in the major leagues.”