Skip to content
Jesse Chavez

Jesse Chavez recalls Billy Wagner’s lessons

Jesse Chavez continues to give back to next generation

It’s an understatement to say Braves reliever Jesse Chavez is an experienced journeyman. He has played for nine different franchises during his 17-year career. The veteran reliever was drafted by the Rangers in the 42nd round in the 2002 MLB Amateur Draft, and he’s still around in the big leagues. 

The San Jose, Calif., native has had hundreds of colleagues in the majors and minors. Chavez has encountered established veterans, young superstars, and longtime minor leaguers. Regardless of his teammates’ status, he’s adamant each member played a part in his growth as a pitcher, most notably potential Hall of Famer Billy Wagner.

Back in 2010, Chavez was trying to cement himself permanently as a major-league reliever. Prior to being acquired by Atlanta, he had already been traded three times and spent the previous two years between the majors and minors. 

Jesse Chavez holds on to early lessons

The Braves, who were his third team in four years, were a new opportunity to elevate his career. Chavez was invited to spring training, where newly acquired All-Star fireballer Wagner accompanied him that year. 

Before camp started, Wagner and Chavez were in the weight room together. Suddenly, the All-Star veteran called Chavez aside. Wagner preached to the novice reliever about the importance of maintaining his body fit to pitch.

“When I got here in 2010 I was fortunate to come across Billy Wagner in his final year,” said Chavez, who is in his third season of his third stint back with the Braves. “We had a lot of good conversations early on about what I wanted to accomplish in this game and how I can stick around here for a long time. 

“He gave me a couple of things to go home and do some homework on. I just tried to perfect what he told me and add little bits here and there to the program of what I do to be here this long.”


Our Esquina’s MLB Player of the Year: Ronald Acuña Jr

Mexican umpire Alfonso Marquez blazes trail

Billy Wagner nurtures women’s baseball prodigy

Wagner was five votes shy of being elected into the Hall of Fame in his ninth year on the ballot this year. In 2010, his last in the majors, he felt compelled to help the future generation. The Rolaids Relief Award winner undertook this role because he once longed for a mentor when he started his career. 

Giving back

Although their playing time together was rather transient, Wagner was automatically drawn to Chavez. Wagner praised the Mexican American pitcher’s personality as wonderful. He describes Chavez as someone anyone would want to be around. 

“When I was coming up, there weren’t a lot of people around to sit there and tell you how to do stuff or give you advice,” Wagner said. “They didn’t want to give you any inside track. When I was up I didn’t want to treat guys like that. 

“Jesse was a hard worker. I was excited for him and I thought he was a really good pitcher then. I am not surprised to look up and see he has 17 years in.”

Wagner’s counsel surely aided Chavez throughout his career. The 40-year-old’s remarkable work ethic also helped him stay consistent and in the majors. Chavez has experienced it all. He’s been called out of the bullpen over 500 times. He’s pitched in high-leverage situations, the World Series and blowouts.

Chavez has recorded nine career saves and started 85 games. This much familiarity on all aspects of pitching makes Chavez a perfect candidate for a clubhouse leader. He cherished the role because having a support system in the clubhouse was beneficial for his prolonged career. 

“I just try to make sure they don’t steer off their program,” he said on helping the younger Braves pitchers. “I make sure I don’t see them do what I haven’t seen them do previously.”

Nearing the end

As the final few chapters of Chavez’s vocation come to a close he is appreciative for what he’s accomplished. He’s experienced the harshness of this sport. Chavez has overcome injuries along with many demotions. In 2019 Chavez suffered an injury to his right posterior elbow impingement. He was 35 at the time, so his future was uncertain. 

Nonetheless the Riverside City College alum recovered and has pitched another five years. Chavez has also witnessed the glory of baseball. He found his way back to the Braves at the perfect time. He won the World Series with Atlanta when they defeated the Astros in 2021. He pitched two clean innings in that Fall Classic. 

At 40, Chavez is 1-1 with a 1.80 ERA over 20 appearances this season. His career brought him full circle as he dons the Atlanta jersey once again. When it’s all over, Chavez will appreciate the moments he’s had. 

“It’s been a blast,” Chavez said. “The biggest thing has been the conversations I’ve had off the field. With the reporters, you guys, the security guards that allow us to be relaxed enough to do our jobs down there in the bullpen to get ready. That’s the thing that I relish the most. The conversation I have off the field.”

Photo courtesy of the Atlanta Braves/X.

Stay in the Loop

Get the Our Esquina Email Newsletter

By submitting your email, you are agreeing to receive additional communications and exclusive content from Our Esquina. You can unsubscribe at any time.