As a hardcore Atlanta Braves fan, I would truly be remiss if I didn’t write a tribute blog to Chipper Jones one day after the 2012 season ended.
The 19-year-pro may have hung up his cleats earlier than he wanted to as his beloved Braves were ousted of the playoffs in the inaugural Wild Card round of the MLB playoffs, but I bet this season was everything he wanted it to be. Although it must’ve been a saddening experience, every single MLB ballpark that Jones played in during this final run bid him their own farewell in some very unique ways. Every club gave the 40-year old their park’s third base while others threw promotional nights for baseball fans to say their goodbyes to one of the best players who has ever graced the diamond.
In times of darkness with things like performance enhancing drugs and “chicken and beer” incidents, Jones’ final season showed us all how classy baseball can be. Jones won’t go down as the best third baseman who ever walked or perhaps even a top 50 player, but he was treated like a true titan of the game in each contest he played this season. I even made a trip from Northwest, Wyoming to Coors Field in Denver just to see No. 10 one last time and I made that very special trip my bachelor party, two months before my wedding.
Jones has clearly earned his respect. He may not have done it with his numbers, but rather his heart. I truly believe he was so well respected for more than his talent. And although he could certainly be recognized on talent alone, there was just something different about Chipper. Maybe it’s because he spent his entire 19-year-career in the same uniform. Maybe he is so highly regarded because he was never within a 10 foot pole’s reach of any sort of steroid conversation. Above all, I believe most baseball fans honored Chipper because he is that sort of “Mr. Baseball” kind of guy.
He has the neat nickname. Chipper plays the hot corner and did it despite bad knees. He was a World Series champ and the poster boy of Bobby Cox’s run at 19-consecutive N.L. East division titles. While some just watched the Braves for their pitching, they always knew No. 10 was the one hitter you always had to watch out for. While some players will earn their honors in the stat sheets, Chipper took the hearts of MLB fans by being himself — a grown man that played the game for the simple joys of it and the people who looked up to him.
So thanks for 19 years Chipper. I hope retirement is all that you want it to be. Although I will be looking for your name in next year’s starting lineup, I’m truly proud to have been a baseball fan during your career.