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Jones overwhelmed by well-deserved tribute

Bobby Cox and Hall of Famer Hank Aaron help Braves pay tribute to Chipper Jones before Friday's game.

ATLANTA – Chipper Jones deserved it all.

 

Everything.


All the kind words that flowed from the mouths of teammates, ex- Braves, Hall of Famers and even Michael Jordan.

 

All the gifts that were given to him.


All the video highlights of his career that were shown during the three-hour Chipperpalooza at Turner Field on Friday night.


It's rare that a player with the skills and heart and Hall of Fame career like Jones displays the loyalty and dedication to one franchise and one city as he has for the past two decades.


So with his career winding down, it was time for the Braves and their fans and Atlanta to repay Jones on what Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal declared as "Chipper Jones Day."


"I think I had a tear planted in the corner of my eye basically all night," Jones said. "It's pretty tough to hit when you're a little misty like that."


When Jones announced in spring training that this season – his 19th in a Braves uniform – would be his last, there was no way to know how it would turn out.


Injuries had stolen some of the gifts that had helped him become one of the best third basemen to ever play in the majors, so who could've guessed Jones would help carry the Braves back to playoffs.

 

But he repeatedly came through with late-inning home runs and clutch hits, even landing one final All-Star game appearance, and driving the team to enough wins to send him out with one more trip to the playoffs.


It was just one more amazing year in an amazing career for Jones.


The pregame ceremony had been planned for months, but no degree of self-control and focus could curb Jones' emotions while speaking from a stage what included his parents, two of his four sons, his best friend, Hank Aaron and the only two managers and only two general managers he's played for in a Braves uniform.


There was a gigantic No. 10 painted onto the outfield grass, and there was even a taped message from reclusive former team owner Ted Turner.


He was bombarded by the cheers and whistles and camera flashes from the first sellout of the season, the noise from 51,910 fans – the seventh-largest crowd in Turner Field history – cascading from the stands like a blanket of love.


"There's no real way to prepare for that. It was so overwhelming," Jones said. "The support and the love in the ballpark tonight, it's something that's hard to prepare yourself for. I appreciate everything that was said and done. The innings and the games, they're whittling away. It's starting to sink in. I don't really play this game real good when I get emotional."


Jones went 0-for-4 and his teammates generated only four hits in a 3-1 loss to the Mets, but this night was all about Jones and what he's done for a city and a franchise for the past 20 years.


He drove in more than 100 runs for eight consecutive seasons and hit more than 20 home run for 14 straight years. Jones will retire with a career average above .300.


That's above .300 overall, above .300 hitting right-handed and above .300 hitting left-handed.


In one of many video tributes, MLB Commissioner Bud Selig said: "It's obvious where you're headed. The next time we all see you will be in Cooperstown, N.Y."


Jones never recovered, telling Braves starter Tim Hudson that he was an "emotional wreck" and asking Mets catcher Josh Thole, "How the heck am I supposed to hit with all this going on? It got to me."


"I try to stay as even keel as possible," Jones said. "That's how I play the game the best. I was just too overwhelmed and too emotional to go out there and play effectively. Every pitch they threw up there I wanted to hit 10 rows deep. You can't do that.

 

"Hopefully, it will settle down in the next couple of days, and I'll be able to do my job a little better."


Five more regular-season games remain in Jones' career.


There's at least one playoff game after that, a game that wouldn't have happened without Jones' final season.