As Atlanta Braves third baseman Chipper Jones flirted with .400 for the first half of the season, it seemed as if he was attacking the game like everyone else was still in high school. Well, hitting the rewind button on his career, he was once a terror in prep ball, too. But success didn't come without a challenge. After growing up in rural Pierson, Fla., Chipper transferred to the prestigious Bolles School (Jacksonville, Fla.) prior to his sophomore year. Three years later, the Atlanta Braves made him the No. 1 pick in the 1990 MLB Draft after he hit .488 with five homers and 25 RBIs as a senior shortstop. With six All-Star appearances and more than 400 homers in the bigs, the move to Bolles seems to have worked out OK for one of the best switch-hitters in baseball history.
The Bolles School (Jacksonville, Fla.), Class of 1990
ESPN RISE: YOU'VE CALLED GOING TO BOLLES THE BIGGEST DECISION OF YOUR LIFE. WHY'S THAT?
Chipper: I went through, at ages 15, 16, 17 and 18, what most guys go through at 19, 20, 21 in college. I was going to public school and making A's and B's and not bringing a book home. I went up there and had three hours of homework a night. I had to budget my time, my money. I had a car. I had to eat. All these things caused me to grow up real fast.
ESPN RISE: WAS THERE CULTURE SHOCK GOING FROM A RURAL, BLUE-COLLAR FLORIDA TOWN TO AN ELITE PRIVATE SCHOOL?
Chipper: (Laughs) It was bad. I was a small, country kid coming to a rich private school. I was driving a white Ford Escort, 1983. Everybody there was driving BMWs and Trans Ams and stuff like that. I had a little trouble fitting in. Once they saw me run and catch passes on the football field and swing a baseball bat, I found that I got liked.
ESPN RISE: HOW DID YOU ADJUST ACADEMICALLY?
Chipper: I had a lot of trouble. My dad said, "You're not coming home. It's not an option. You've got to do whatever it takes to get by. Get tutors, go in after school and before school to get help. Do what you've got to do." I found a comfort zone. I showed the teachers I was trying hard, that I was really interested in making good grades.
ESPN RISE: DID YOU SETTLE IN FOR YOUR JUNIOR YEAR?
Chipper: It's like being a rookie in the big leagues. You never truly get your sea legs under you until that second year. The first year's kind of a whirlwind.
ESPN RISE: WHAT WAS YOUR LAST YEAR LIKE WITH ALL THE DRAFT TALK?
Chipper: (Pitcher Todd) Van Poppel was in the draft, and he was the jewel of the draft. But he told the Braves he wasn't going to sign with them. The Braves called and asked if they drafted me No. 1, would I sign. I laughed at them. All I wanted to do was go play ball. I wanted to get in the big leagues as quickly as possible. I knew the day before the draft I was going to go No. 1. I was at my prom.