Marlins give retiring Chipper Jones a fishing rod
Truth is, they've probably felt that way for a while.
Jones, who has more logged more games, hits, home runs and RBIs against the Marlins than anyone else, added to his collection of going-away gifts from his final season before his last game in Miami on Wednesday night. The Marlins gave Jones a fancy fly-fishing rod and reel among other gifts in a pregame ceremony, one that also included a video tribute and greetings from Jeff Conine and Jose Reyes.
Jones has said he is retiring after the 2012 campaign ends. He went out a winner in Miami, with the Braves topping the Marlins 3-0.
''I don't know why he wants to quit playing,'' Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen said. ''To me, good. Yeah, get out of here. He plays against the Marlins very well.''
Very, very well - with better numbers in many categories than any Marlins opponent.
Jones played in his 244th game against the Marlins on Wednesday, 45 more than anyone has logged against the franchise to date. No Miami opponent has gotten more home runs (40), RBIs (165), hits (258), doubles (47), runs (152), at-bats (864) or walks (140) than Jones, who got his first taste of the majors in 1993 - the same season that the Marlins debuted.
''Chipper was very underrated in his career,'' Guillen said.
Guillen and Jones were teammates in Atlanta in 1998 and 1999.
''He grew up with the right people around him,'' Guillen said. ''He grew up with tremendous management around him. He grew up a winner all his life - that's very important. I think Chipper spent more time in the playoffs than any position player. Chipper played every day in his career for a reason. And now he gives the kids what they gave him, teaching respect, teaching how to play the game, how to be professional. Not too many people do that.''
This Atlanta season - which has no end in sight, given how the Braves are firmly ahead of the NL wild-card chase and aren't out of the NL East race, either - has been a celebration of all things Chipper.
The New York Mets gave Jones - who has a son named Shea in a nod to the Mets' former home park - a piece of 3-D artwork. Jones got a surfboard from the San Diego Padres, the Braves flag that flew over Wrigley Field in Chicago, his No. 10 from the famed scoreboard at Fenway Park and even a grill and year's supply of bratwurst from the Milwaukee Brewers.
Jones said he was moved by how teams have tipped their caps.
''It was a really classy act by the Marlins organization, giving me the gift beforehand,'' Jones said. ''And all their guys coming out of the dugout, that was especially nice. And obviously, however many people that were here, standing for my last at-bat, I wish I could have gotten a hit.''
His last Miami at-bat was a groundout to second.
''I've always enjoyed my time here,'' he said. ''I love coming to Miami. It's one of the few chances that I get to play in front of some friends and family over the years. I cherish each and every time down here.''
The Marlins created a stir in 2010 when they - unlike other clubs - did not publicly recognize the career of retiring manager Bobby Cox during his last appearance in Miami. The longtime Atlanta skipper had made comments critical of Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria earlier that year after the team fired Fredi Gonzalez, now the Braves' manager.
Gonzalez said Jones knows the time is right to step away.
''He's had enough,'' Gonzalez said. ''He's missed a lot of time with the kids. Believe me, you guys see the numbers, but there's some days when you can tell that the knees are bothering him, the body's bothering him, that it takes him a lot just to prepare for a game. But he's had a hell of a year to go away with. Hopefully it lasts for a while.''
Among the other items Jones got from the Marlins on Wednesday night: A fly-fishing vest, a fly-tying kit, books on fly fishing, a hat with LCD lights so he can fish at dawn or dusk, a tackle box and a waterproof tote bag.
Guillen expects Jones to spend more time fishing than he does managing when his playing days end.
''Everybody loves Chipper. When you're a manager, somebody will hate you,'' Guillen said. ''I wish he could stay in the game, yes. I wish he could manage, yes. We need people like that in baseball. ... It's going to be tough to replace him. But the Braves will always find somebody, somewhere. Chipper is just very special.''
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