I don’t think Braves fans have a complete grasp on how special Chipper Jones’ career has been.
I know I had no idea, until the goodbye tour began. Now, as I see opposing clubs showering him with gifts and fanbases liberally tossing around standing ovations for the future Hall of Famer, I think I get it.
Jones might be the best athlete the city of Atlanta has ever been able to call their own. He’s been in one place his entire career, and that’s something we might never see again.
In 24 games this season, Jones is batting .299 with five home runs and 22 RBI. He’s slugging .506, which is his best number in four years. It’s a long season, I know, but it’s been a great start for the 40-year-old.
Even more striking than the stats is the way Jones has been treated on the road. It’s the Bobby Cox going-away party that we saw two years ago — teams are pulling whatever memorabilia they can find off the shelves to give to the Braves’ third baseman to show their appreciation for a great career. The Chicago Cubs gave him their Braves flag that flies above Wrigley Field, and the St. Louis Cardinals presented him with a self-portrait, taking a swing at the Busch Stadium plate. They also gave him a signed Stan Musial replica jersey.
The Houston Astros gave Jones a cowboy hat. Of course.
All of the gifts are telling for sure, but that’s nothing compared to the long ovations Jones has regularly received on the road this year. It tells me one thing — this guy is one of the most respected players in baseball.
Keep in mind that this is a guy who has burned nearly every team in Major League Baseball at one point or another in his career. Yet the fans find it necessary to stand and applaud his first at bat of the series, and stand to cheer him when he makes his final jog to the dugout.
That’s amazing, y’all.
It’s also something I’ve never really seen in baseball. To have that much respect for a member of the Atlanta Braves is something I’m not used to seeing, but it’s definitely cool.
Braves fans know that this is the last season they’ll ever see a member of the 1995 World Champion squad suit up with the tomahawk on their chest, as a position player at least. That is reason enough to enjoy every game in 2012.
But when other fan bases are standing and applauding one of our best, that’s just icing on the cake.