The Chipper Jones farewell tour finally hit home this weekend, in more ways than one.
Jones played the ninth inning of his final regular season game at Turner Field with a lump in his throat, as he was cheered and chanted for by some 50,635 fans. He broke into tears after the Braves’ 6-2 win over the Mets, when he embraced his mom and dad in the stands behind home plate.
“I’ve been fine all weekend,” Jones said. “I’ve been cowboy-ing up all week, trying to hold back the tears. But obviously when it comes full circle and you stand there in front of 50,000 people and tell your mom and dad that you love them…
“It means a lot to me to have gone 35-40 years from the backyard in Pierson, Fla. and here we are standing in a big league stadium in Atlanta. And I have my own weekend. That’s bringing it full circle.”
Jones had given Lynne and Larry Jones and a third consecutive sell-out crowd a jaunt down memory lane, with four charging plays at third base, two walks and his first base hit of the weekend to help the Braves past his old nemesis.
David Ross paid a little homage to Jones’ 1999 MVP award with a three-run homer off New York pitching, and Kris Medlen continued his best imitation of the man who was on the mound for Jones’ first start in 1995, Greg Maddux.
The Braves won for the 23rd consecutive time behind Medlen, which broke the three-way tie he shared with Carl Hubbell and Whitey Ford for the longest streak in the live ball era.
“Coolest experience of my life so far,” Medlen said, and he wasn’t even talking about the win but Jones’ final game. “It’s something I’ll remember for sure. But we’re not done and hopefully we have a lot more memories to make.”
The Braves head into October having won five consecutive series. They went 19-8 in September after going 9-18 in last year’s collapse.
They guaranteed Chipperfest at Turner Field for at least one more day. The Braves close the regular season in Pittsburgh and then will likely return for a one-game wild card game Friday. They still have a chance at the division after the Nationals lost Sunday, narrowing their lead to three games in the NL East with three to play.
Things will have to fall perfectly for the Braves to force a one-game playoff in Washington on Thursday. For Sunday, they just enjoyed how perfectly the day ended for Jones.
The hugs with his parents were the ending Jones envisioned all along, not the one Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez offered on three occasions in the final few innings. Gonzalez asked Jones if he wanted to be pinch hit for his final at-bat, or pinch run for after he drew a walk, or to be replaced in the field in the ninth, so the fans could give him one last ovation in a weekend filled with them.
No, no and no were his answers for Gonzalez.
“I really wanted to finish the game,” Jones said. “I told all the fans via twitter at the beginning of the week that I was going to start every game. I obviously didn’t know how things were going to finish, but I never want to come out of a game.”
He also knew that might spoil the moment he planned with his parents. His mother Lynne is the one who taught him to be stoic at the plate, but by the time she buried her head into his shoulder, the tears were flowing.
“Mom said ‘You shouldn’t have come over here,’” Jones said afterward, laughing. “She was going to lose it.”
From Larry Wayne Jones Sr., a former hitting coach, Jones learned the craft of hitting. That continued right up until Friday, when Jones went 0-for-4 as an “emotional wreck” after being honored before and throughout the game. Jones and his father worked out some kinks in the batting cage and it showed Sunday as he reached on two walks and a base hit, snapping an 0-for-13.
It didn’t take a hit to feel the warmth of the crowd, though. Jones got that with every move he made.
“I don’t know if I’m worthy of all this,” Jones said. “I have my faults and whatnot but when you’ve got that much love in the building. You feel like you’re 10 feet tall.”