Travis Jones Meets Boyhood Idols in Atlanta
Things are moving fast in Travis Jones' life these days. He and his mother made the short trip Monday from their home in Stone Mountain to Atlanta's Turner Field, home of the Atlanta Braves. In the last day and a half, Jones has signed his first professional contract, stood on Turner Field with the players he grew up idolizing, and then was sent immediately to Danville for Tuesday night's season opener for the Danville club. Though he didn't get to play his first night, his dream had come true – he was a professional baseball player.
"It was wonderful," Jones said. "Players I grew up watching, getting to meet them, it was crazy. My late grandfather was a Braves fanatic. For me to be picked by the hometown team is just unbelievable. He and I watched them all the time. Being right there with all the Atlanta Braves, getting to talk with the players, wow. I can't really explain how excited I am right now."
Jones only got to play one year at South Carolina after playing two years in junior college at Lake City Community College in Florida, but he made the most of his one season. He hit 18 home runs and led the team with 83 hits, earning him a place on the the all-Southeastern Conference first team. He was also twice named the SEC Player of the Week. He was the first South Carolina player to be selected in this year's draft, getting selected in the seventh round as the 228th overall pick of this year's draft.
His mother Latricia Jones also talked about their whirlwind day. "It was so busy," she said, "Everyone was so nice." Mrs. Jones was very impressed by the Braves management and their professionalism, singling out Kirk Kemp, John Schuerholz, and Bobby Cox for praise.
The Braves management explained how their system worked, and what Jones would have to do to move up in the system. Mrs. Jones found Billy Best's description of the instructional league in Florida very interesting.
Then she laughed, saying, "They had him up there fast (in Danville). They sure moved him out of here quick!"
Jones will be going from one successful program to another one at the next level. Danville looks to be the first team in modern Appalachian League history to win four division titles in a row.
Travis and his mother were guests of the major league club for their inter-sectional game with the Boston Red Sox, which the Braves won 9-4. Mrs. Jones said that being in the stadium for such a big game was a highlight of the trip for her. "It was so packed," she said. "There were a lot of crazy Boston fans there! It was a real exciting atmosphere."
She talked about how being selected by the Braves was meaningful to her son: "He was excited about being with his hometown team. He said to me, I hope I'm ready!"
Jones had shared in a previous interview with GamecockAnthem how his mother was his hero, and he was always learning from her. Now that he's a professional athlete, things aren't going to change much, according to Mom. "I always tell him to sit back, don't rush it. A lot of kids, that's what they do. Go straight to that money, buy a car. I know he's going to get one, but I think he's going to wait until close to his birthday (November 10). He's tight with his money. He's a penny pincher."
Gamecock fans will always remember Travis Jones fondly. When the team was beset by off field problems that caused the loss of some key players, up to that time little known Jones stepped up and made sure he would be remembered with his lightning quick fielding and thunder in his bat.
"I had a wonderful experience there, almost overwhelming, being in the SEC. The program is the best one I've ever been around in my career. I wish that I had had three years (at South Carolina.) I loved it. The whole atmosphere, the coaches, the players, the fans the camarederie was great all around." He said.
Looking back at his one year in Columbia, his mother echoed his sentiments of wanting to have been there longer: "I wish he could have been there from the beginning, but I'm happy he did get there. I think his time at South Carolina was a wonderful experience. I know he was happy with it. He was so happy that I know he plans to go on and get his degree there."
Mrs. Jones continued, saying, "He was really crazy about Coach Tanner. He was always talking about Coach Tanner, and he calls him still. He was happy with the whole experience at South Carolina."
According to his mom, he won't be the only one who misses USC: "I'm really going to miss being there too. I miss that environment. There are so many nice people there. The whole atmosphere is nice. I know he is looking forward to going back."
It's a sure bet that South Carolina fans will welcome him back with gratitude for how much he brought to the program in one short season.
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