From choosing to play baseball to joining the military, J.R. followed in his late father’s footsteps in many ways throughout his life. And when it came time to choose his own jersey number, it was no different.
J.R.’s father Russell played baseball in high school and wore number 31, but his time on the diamond was cut short as he was called serve his country as an Army ranger in World War II.
When he returned home from the war, he also returned to the sport he loved best, but in a different capacity. Russell served as a local coach, helping teach young children in his area how to play the game, and providing baseball equipment to the underprivileged.
Years later, when J.R. began to coach professionally, he chose to honor his father by wearing the number 31 and has continued to do so at every stage of his career.
And now, keeping up the family tradition, J.R.’s children Marie, J.R. and Mariela all play the sport and all proudly wear…you guessed it…31.
More than just a jersey number, the number 31 is also symbolic of J.R.’s approach to the game and life.
The phrase “Live life like a 3-1 count” means that when the hitter is up to bat and the count is three balls and one strike, he or she should be ready to swing.
This translates off the field into a way of living life to the fullest each and every day, a life where you aren’t afraid to swing for the fences and take risks. Because with great risks come great rewards.
That also means that one should not simply sit back and hope things will happen. If you watch a 3-1 fastball go over the heart of the plate, you aren’t looking to get a hit, you’re looking for a walk — the easy way out.
Family. Tradition. Hard work. Discipline. Courage. Those are just some of values that are proudly displayed on J.R. and his family’s jerseys, wrapped up in the number 31, forever.
J.R.’s career was also greatly influenced by another man who wore number 31: Hall-of-Fame pitcher Greg Maddux. One of the greatest command pitchers of all time, Greg was J.R.’s favorite pitcher and his style of pitching was something that J.R. studied incessantly.
Coincidentally, Both Greg and J.R. both shared a mentor in former Braves pitching coach Leo Mazzone. From the time he was 15, J.R. studied under Leo and attests, “Everything there is to know about pitching, I learned from Leo Mazzone.” In addition to discussions about philosophy, strategy, arm care, and more, J.R. would also pick Leo’s brain about anything and everything related to Greg’s preparation, mechanics and routine. These pitching dialogues with Leo, as well as Chicago White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper, have greatly shaped J.R.’s own personal pitching philosophy to this day.