Gold Glover hopes to have golden bat
Andruw relaxed heading into first Home Run Derby appearance
ATLANTA -- Andruw Jones digs the long ball. Well, kind of.
His 27 home runs tie him with Cubs first baseman Derrek Lee for most in the Majors, but Jones is nonchalant when discussing his bat. He eyes brighten up more readily when the topic turns to fielding.
With seven Gold Gloves, the Atlanta center fielder is renowned for making big plays to assist pitchers. He's on pace, however, to shatter his single-season homer mark of 36, which he set in 2000 and matched three years later.
Jones passed the 30-homer threshold five times in six years before hitting 29 last season. If he wins a homer title, fine. If he wins the CENTURY 21 Home Run Derby, that'd be cool, too. He's just not going to lose any sleep over it.
"It's not something I look at or really even care about right now," Jones said. "We're here to win games, and that's all that matters. The more games we win, the better off we are."
In the midst of his ninth full season, Jones will make a fourth trip to the All-Star Game. His first Midsummer Classic, in 2000, was at Turner Field, where the Braves moved in 1997.
The derby this year starts at 8 p.m. ET on Monday and will be televised live on ESPN. An eight-man field, representing eight different nations, will participate alongside Jones: Philadelphia's Bobby Abreu (Venezuela), Pittsburgh's Jason Bay (Canada), the Dodgers' Hee-Seop Choi (Korea), Milwaukee's Carlos Lee (Panama), Boston's David Ortiz (Dominican Republic), Detroit's Ivan Rodriguez (Puerto Rico) and Texas' Mark Teixeira (United States).
Lee and the Brewers took an 8-4 victory Sunday to give Atlanta its second straight loss. Looking at a big slugger like Lee or even Ortiz makes Jones think his chances are slim.
"I think the underdogs are going to be me and Bay, maybe," Jones said. "I'm just going to go out there and enjoy the break."
As usual, there are three rounds, and each batter gets 10 outs in an attempt to hit as many home runs as possible, with anything other than a homer recorded as an out. After the ninth out, sluggers will take their cuts against "Golden Home Run Balls". For each golden ball that leaves the park, Major League Baseball and sponsor CENTURY 21 will combine to donate $21,000 to charity.
In addition to the eight participating players, eight sweepstakes finalists will be heading to the derby for the chance to win $250,000 toward the purchase of a home, compliments of CENTURY 21 Real Estate LLC. Finalists will be matched with a slugger; the finalist paired with the player who wins this event will win the grand prize.
Jones would love to help a fan realize a financial dream. Baseball has been kind to him.
"Sure, I mean, what could be better than hitting a few balls over the fence and giving somebody a chance to improve things?" Jones said. "You never know what can happen."
George Henry is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.