Jones teaching us how to grow older

He's in his final season, and Chipper Jones is trying to get everything in before he walks away.

Getting older is not easy. Sure, as the saying goes, "it beats the alternative." But if you are at least 30 years old, you probably know what I'm talking about.

The things you did easily 10 years ago are a bit more difficult. You move a little slower when you get out of bed when you get older. You might not be able to do some things you did at 20 or 25 or even 30 years old when you get into your 40s and 50s.

Those who can relate must respect Chipper Jones even more for what he's doing. He's 40 years old, and yet Jones is going out there – when he's out there – and doing things he used to do 10 years ago.

Now, he's doing it slower than he used to, but Jones is still getting the job done. The Braves have to rest him two or three times a week, but when Jones plays he's still a pretty good baseball player.

There's no doubt Jones' body is breaking down. His knees are a mess. The trip from the on deck circle to the batter's box is a long one. When someone lays a bunt down the third base line, Jones undoubtedly cringes knowing he's got to run in and make the play.

For him to even be playing third base at 40 years old is unprecedented. We just don't see elite players at that position still play at that age. They've usually moved on to be a designated hitter, play first base, or have already retired.

It was obvious in spring training Jones was frustrated by his body just not working like it used to. He didn't have the range at third base he used to have, and his swing was slowing down. That's the big reason why he went ahead and announced this year would be his last.

It's just amazing to see how relevant he still is for this team. You could make an argument that Jones saved the season. Remember when the Braves were 0-4 a few weeks ago? His home run against Houston in his first game of the year made that team smile again. A group of players that looked defeated after four lousy games had reason to be happy, as they saw the old man who plays third do something good.

And then Wednesday night, when the Braves had one of the craziest games in franchise history, he did it again. Just when you might have thought Atlanta would never beat the Phillies again, the old man limped to the plate and knocked one out of the park.

What was sad, however, was what Jones said after the game.

"I wish my knee would allow me to be in there more. I still feel like I have the skills to be able to play this game and play it well, but unfortunately at 40 my body just doesn't allow me to sometimes," Jones admitted.

He knows he can still play – when he can play. He can perform, as long as he can be out there. But being out there is the problem.

Imagine the frustration he must feel. Jones is going to be a Hall of Famer. He's been one of the best third basemen in the history of this sport. He played at a high level for over 15 years. And yet, just because he's getting older, he can't do it as much anymore. He sees glimpses of his former self when he does something special like he did Wednesday, and then the next day Jones probably could barely move.

It sounds like the rest of us who are getting older, doesn't it? We still want to get out there and play a pick-up basketball game, or walk 18 holes of golf, or do yard work on the weekends. But it certainly is tougher than it used to be when we were much younger.

So let's appreciate what Jones is doing. He may be teaching us all a lesson here in getting older. It's not always fun, but you still have to get out there and take the field no matter how you feel.


Bill Shanks hosts The Bill Shanks Show on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 in Macon, GA, WHAL Fox Sports 1460 in Columbus, GA and WCOH Fox Sports 1400 in Newnan, GA. Shanks is a columnist for The Macon Telegraph. Email Bill at thebillshanksshow@yahoo.com and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/billshanks.


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