When you think about the Atlanta Braves, you should automatically think of Chipper Jones. He was the first round draft pick for the Braves 19 seasons ago and has played every game of his professional career in a Braves uniform. Since joining the team, the Braves have had one World Series win and the Braves organization has had its most success with Chipper on 3rd base and Bobby Cox as the General Manager. Two seasons ago we said good-bye to Bobby, now were having to say good-bye to Chipper Jones, too.
In March, during Spring Training in Orlando, Chipper Jones announced that the 2012 season would be his last as he fought back tears when he addressed his teammates. You can tell from the way the players talk about Chipper and the way Chipper talks about his teammates that what he's going to miss most is his time in the clubhouse and the playing field with his team.
It was a gorgeous night at Turner Field and the stadium was packed. Over 51,000 fans turned out to see Chipper's final regular season Friday night. (The Braves will play in the Wild Card game next Friday night and hopefully through the end of October.)
|Chipper sitting next to Bobby Cox and Hank Aaron|
The regular stage was rolled out to the infield before the start of the game for Braves VIP to give their tribute to Chipper Jones. On hand we had former and current Braves players, Bobby Cox, two of Chipper's kids and his best friend and agent.
It was great to see Bobby back in Turner Field. I just hate that it was because we'll be losing our favorite player.
Teams around the league have been honoring Chipper as he comes to their stadiums for the last time. In each stop he gets a gift from the team. These have ranged from a year-long supply of sausages from The Brewers to a surfboard from The Padres.
The Braves had their own gifts to give Chipper. The City of Atlanta officially named the day Chipper Jones Day here in Atlanta. Not too shabby. The Braves will be giving him bricks from Turner Field in the shape of Home Plate. Where those bricks were removed from the stadium there is also a plaque to commemorate Chipper. Because Turner Field has been Chipper's home away from home for so long, the Braves will also be giving him his actual locker from the locker room. That's pretty darn cool. When they told him about that he looked pretty excited.
|The Mets stood at the edge of the dugout the entire tribute|
Brian McCann spoke on behalf of the current Braves players. I love that guy. I didn't notice until Brian mentioned it, but all of the Braves players were wearing a sports performance turtleneck shirt under their uniforms Friday night, a tribute to Chipper and what he wears under his uniform everyday. They ALL hate turtlenecks. In the locker room they were calling them "nerdelnecks". HAHAHA. The Braves players gave Chipper a gift themselves, a brand new pool table. It looked pretty damn nice. There was a little plaque on the side of the table noting that the table was a gift from the 2012 Braves Players.
|We love you, too, Chipper.|
Chipper addressed the crowed for more than his allotted 4 minutes and was visibly moved by the entire presentation. He has been the team's leader for so long, he's going to be very missed.
At the end of the presentation, the staged was rolled off the field and it was time for the teams to take the field. Chipper is typically the first one out of the dugout and the rest of the team follows. Friday night the rest of the team stayed in the dugout and let Chipper take the field alone. He was not aware of this plan. I was too caught up in the moment to take a picture of him alone on the field but it was pretty amazing. He noticed he was the only one out there when he was almost to 3rd base. He was so embarrassed. In the picture above, Chipper was stepping back off the field until the rest of the team came out. He's in the red uniform shirt.
As a fan of the Braves my entire life, I can't remember a game that didn't have Chipper Jones. Thanks for all of the memories, Chipper, and let's take this season all the way to the end. You deserve to hoist the World Series trophy above your head after your final game in a MLB uniform.