This is the first part of a two-part interview with retiring Braves legend Chipper Jones.
Chipper Jones has been the heart and soul of the Atlanta Braves for the better part of 19 seasons and is the last remaining player from the 1995 World Championship team still with the team. At 40 years old, he’s retiring after 19 seasons with the club. Jones takes a look back at his final season and his career with the Braves in this two-part Q&A.
Q: Has anything surprised you about the affection the fans are showing during your farewell season?
A: My dad always said you’re not going to make everybody happy, how hard you try. So don’t even fret over it. I know I haven’t made everybody happy here. I have my naysayers and whatnot. I think it’s been very overwhelming, because I’m used to going into parks and getting lustily booed. I take that as sort of a compliment because most of the good players on opposing teams get booed. That means I’m doing my job. But now, to hear those boos turn into ovations and standing ovations, is really, really overwhelming for me. I’ve had that ‘aw shucks’ look on my face a lot. It’s a little awkward for me. I think any player would tell you that they want to be appreciated not only by their teammates and peers, but the fans who pay the fares to come watch us play.
Q: In the end, does it matter?
A: That’s a huge ego when you say you’re not going to let some boos get under your skin, but deep down, it hurts. I would venture a guess to say that 100 percent of the guys who get a standing ovation on the road will come out afterwards and say, that was really cool and be the first to admit that it was really cool, that it made them feel good.
Q: You couldn’t have written a better last chapter as far as cementing that affection, regarding your performance and the way the team is playing.
A: A writer could not have scripted it any better. It’s been unbelievable. To me, I think, the first time I really took a step back was on bobblehead night. There had been some cool moments up that point, but for all those people to come to bobblehead night and be in the stands, and for me to hit a two-run homer in my first at-bat. As it was flying out of the park, I was running down to first saying, ‘You have got to be kidding me.’ It just seemed too unreal. And then to hit another one. And then to get an opportunity to hit a walk-off, and have a five-hit game at home, and to have all of these things happen here, in the final chapter … I go home at night and I lay in bed and I go, ‘I cannot believe that happened.’
Q: In the spring, when you announced this and were thinking about it, did you have any kind of script in mind?
A: I knew that I was still capable of coming out and hitting .300, but the timing of some of the stuff that’s happened has just been eerie. And I thought there would be some cool moments. Obviously, when it’s crunch time, and you need the big at-bat and you need to get the big base hit, that’s something I expect of myself. But even the timing of some of these home runs and some of these big games has just been really incredible.
Q: Does it make you believe …?
A: In divine intervention? I thank God every day for giving me what he’s giving and being able to allow me all the wonderful moments in this last year.
Q: Has there been one memorable thing a fan has shouted at you this year? Or a tweet or something that has really struck home?
A: I think of all the signs around the ballpark, all of the tweets that I get from people who drove 11 hours from Iowa or Minnesota or the far corners of the United States just to come to see me play one last time. I’ve been relatively sheltered in the social media realm until this year. Getting to read all the quotes and read all the tweets and find out what people have been saying for so long, I’m actually sorry that I didn’t do it sooner because it’s given me a new appreciation for each and every fan who sits their butt in the seats at The Ted and what they go through just to come watch me play one last time. It’s so overwhelming. I sit up to 2 o’clock in the morning and read all these comments. I want them to know that I love them and appreciate them and I’m going to try and get out there and play each and every time I can.
Q: There might have been some years when you didn’t want to read what the fans had to say.
A: There’s no doubt. There’s no doubt. That’s just the nature of the beast. You have to take the good with the bad. There are people who are going to voice their displeasure when you go out and stink up the joint. I think what people appreciate is that when you do stink up the joint, you tell them. I stunk. We stunk. People don’t seem to take their frustration out on you as much when you admit to stinking it up.