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Tribute To Chipper Jones

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AP
AP

After an incredible nineteen year career with the Atlanta Braves, future first
ballot Hall Of Fame third baseman Chipper Jones will finally call it quits after
this season. As a die hard Braves fan this has been especially hard for me to
deal with. Rooting for Chipper and the Braves has been a family tradition for as
long as I can remember. A tradition that started by grandfather Harold Pace, who
lived in Greenville, South Carolina. Greenville is a minor league affiliate for
the Braves, and the place where our future superstars go to prepare themselves
for the big leagues. In '92 I can vividly remember Grandpa raving about the new
shortstop (Chipper's original position) from Florida who would "finally win us a
championship!" I'd heard him get excited about minor leaguers before, and only
being six at the time I couldn't really identify individual players but
something about this guy was special. The .346 BA .367 OBP and .594 SLG he
posted in Greenville were more than enough to win over any fan but for me it all
started with the name... Chipper! "Chipper Jones" sounded like the secret
identity of a baseball super hero, like it was tailor made for ESPN and the
cover of Sports Illustrated. I was hooked!

It was 1995 when Chipper made his major league debut, and as promised by my
beloved grandfather he immediately lead us to the promise land. In his rookie
season we beat the Cleveland Indians to win the World Series and I was
absolutely beside myself. In my obnoxious nine year old glory I wholeheartedly
believed that Chipper would then win a championship for us every year! I
mean... he was a superhero! The Braves lost the World Series in seven games to
the Minnesota Twins in 1991 and in six to the Blue Jays in 1992 before Chipper's
arrival. So clearly with him on third base we'd established an unstoppable
dynasty, right? Gotta love that nine year old logic.

The Chipper-lead Braves won ten consecutive division titles from 1995 - 2004
and although Atlanta hasn't won a championship since 95 they served as Major
League Baseball's model franchise for well over a decade. The sportsmanship,
class, and dedication of Mr. Larry Jones Jr was unparalleled. He's undoubtedly
one of the best switch hitters and third basemen of all time and in my opinion
the best player of his era.

Living in Brooklyn I wouldn't get regional coverage of Braves games but thanks
to Ted Turner's TNT network (Thank GOD for TNT!!) I had the opportunity to watch
them play everyday for years. I'll always be a Braves fan but its going to be
extremely hard knowing my main man will no longer be batting and playing third
for us. Never again will I get to hear a stadium full of hopeless Mets fans chant
"Laaaaaarryyy Laaaaaaarryyy" before he doubles in the game winning run. Or hear
Ozzy Osbourne's "Crazy Train" as he leaves the on deck circle and approaches the
plate. No more five-four-three double plays, no more walkoff home-runs, no more post game
interviews. I'm very optimistic about the next generation of Braves players and
the opportunity to pass the tradition on to my children and theirs, but there
will always be a special place in my heart for the team I grew up with. Outside
of family and friends how many things can maintain relevance in our lives for
two decades? I've been alive for twenty-six years and Chipper Jones has been
apart of nineteen of them, just as significant on my fifth birthday as my twenty
fifth. Its been a pleasure tomahawk chopping for all these years and I'm
looking forward to keeping it up in the future. On behalf of myself and more
importantly my late grandfather Harold Pace I bid Farewell to the face of our
franchise, the face of the NL East, and the face of Southern baseball. Goodbye,
Chipper thanks for all the memories.