I am not sure if it was the fact that you were from the Jacksonville area. Maybe, it was the World Championship you helped the Braves capture in the mid-90s. Perhaps, the MVP season amidst an era of performance enhancing drugs is what did it for me.
As a baseball loving adolescent, Chipper Jones was everything I wanted to be. The guy played baseball the way I understood it needed to be played. He never seemed to walk off the field with a clean jersey. More than that, he made me enjoy the game. Hearing Mets fans chant “Larry” (his real name) and knowing it was cause they despised him so much based on how good he was, especially against the Mets. Their villain was my hero.
One of my greatest memories involving Chipper happened when I was 10. My family and I had gone to a Braves/Marlins game. Every kid was given a Braves hat. I was dead set on getting #10’s autograph. My dad, knowing how much I idolized Chipper, takes a glance at the extremely long lines around the dugout and figures the chances of getting an autograph were about a million to one ( I know, I know “So you’re saying there’s a chance?”). My father takes my Braves hat grabs a pen and signs it “Chipper Jones #10”, looks at me and says “Your friends will never know the difference.” Sure, it was not the real deal. True, my friends would not have known the difference. I knew though.
October 5, 2012 will have been the last time any of us could have witnessed #10 suit up. The last time “Crazy Train” is played before an at bat. The last time I find myself trying to guess at what the tattoo on his right arm is. The last time my childhood hero digs into the batters box. The beauty of sports is that 2013 will offer new hope, a new season, with new things to cheer about but there will never be another #10 to this guy. Thanks for the memories Chipper.