Chipper Jones to be keynote speaker at 2023 Athens Area Chamber of Commerce banquet

Former Atlanta Braves' Chipper Jones takes the podium during a pregame ceremony retiring his number before a baseball game between the Atlanta Braves and the Arizona Diamondbacks, Friday, June 28, 2013, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

The Athens Area Chamber of Commerce has announced its 2023 annual banquet speaker as former Atlanta Braves legend Chipper Jones, continuing a string of high-profile headliners for the event now looking ahead to its 16th year.

Tickets went on sale last week and are already being sold at a brisk pace, organizers said, and once they're gone there are no more.

(READ MORE: Chipper Jones headlined Best of Preps banquet)

Jones will speak at the event at 6 p.m. June 24 at McMinn County High School, chamber President and CEO Rob Preston said.

Preston said Jones represents a dying breed, and that's part of what makes him so popular.

"He's got so many wonderful statistics, and I think the fact that he played his entire career with the Braves speaks a lot because nowadays that just doesn't happen," Preston said Monday in a phone interview. "I think Hank Aaron is the most popular Brave of all time, and you could make an argument that Chipper's No. 2."

Preston praised Jones' prowess on the diamond and his popularity over the years with baseball fans of all ages and loyalties.

Jones was a third baseman who spent his entire 19-year Major League Baseball career playing for the Atlanta Braves, according to biographical information in the release announcing his visit. He was the first overall pick of the club in the 1990 MLB draft. Jones is an eight-time All-Star, the 1999 National League MVP and 2008 National League Batting Champion.

When his career was finished, Jones had amassed the most RBIs in the history of baseball for a third-baseman, and he stands as the only switch hitter in the history of baseball to finish his career with a .300 average, .400 on-base percentage and .500 slugging percentage, all while hitting 468 home runs.

Jones retired in 2012. He was raised in Pierson, Florida, attended high school at The Bolles School in Jacksonville and now lives in Atlanta with his wife and family, according to his bio. Jones is the father of seven boys.

Often sports-oriented, the Athens chamber's benefit has drawn big-time speakers over the years, including Bo Jackson, Tim Tebow, Herschel Walker, Kirk Cameron, Nick Saban, Steve Spurrier, Pete Rose, Bruce Pearl, Phil Fulmer and -- most popular so far -- Tennessee's beloved Peyton Manning. One speaker of note who was not a professional athlete was bodybuilder and "Incredible Hulk" star, Lou Ferrigno.

The speaker at 2020's delayed event, held in October, was golf legend Jack Nicklaus, and the year before it was former President George W. Bush.

For the 2022 banquet held in June, the speaker was the former press secretary for former President Donald Trump, Kayleigh McEnany.

The two most recent, politically polarizing speakers drew considerable fire from folks who didn't count themselves among their fans, Preston admitted, but said Jones is an attractive figure at all levels. He's almost as popular as Manning, he said.

"That first two days of ticket sales was kind of equivalent to when Peyton Manning came," he said. "I never thought we would get back to that point -- and I'm not saying we're going to sell it out like we did for Peyton -- but the enthusiasm is just incredibly high."

More than 200 tickets have already sold, Preston said. A sell out would be 3,000 tickets, he said.

"We've sold tickets to five different states already," he said. "When Peyton came, we sold to, like, 17 different states."

The format will be a moderated question-and-answer session with Jones, he said. The setting will be more intimate than a simple speaking engagement.

Guests can submit questions for Jones through Preston's email at

Proceeds from the fundraiser will be used for community projects, Preston said.

Contact Ben Benton at or 423-757-6569. Follow him on Twitter at @BenBenton.