Atlanta Braves star Chipper Jones' legacy felt in area

A little more than 22 years ago the Atlanta Braves made Larry Wayne Jones the first overall pick in the 1990 draft. Braves fans soon learned that the young high-school slugger out of Deland, Fla. went by the name Chipper. It didn’t take long to become the most recognizable first name in the history of the franchise.

 

Jones, who announced in March that his career will end in retirement after this season, captured the eyes and hearts of baseball fans throughout the Southeast with his consistent bat, country boy image and star power. He’ll leave baseball with at least one World Series ring, a National League MVP and eight All-Star selections.

He’s used his final season as an appreciation tour of sorts, playing in big league ballparks one last time and often leaving to the ovations of respectful fans appreciative of an athlete who has remained with the same team for his entire career.

“I think I’ve really tried to take a step back and really just enjoy all the compliments and things that fans are saying,” he said. “We get tunnel vision so often about what our job is. We’re trained to tune out fans, but I think it’s awfully difficult here in my last year not to be able to take a step back and to listen to all the gratitude and all the good things that people say.”

The accolades don’t begin to fully measure Jones’ impact on baseball fans, including those in the Augusta area. While fans honor many baseball stars by seeking autographs, collecting baseball cards and buying their jerseys, Jones’ legacy has prompted another level of devotion. Fans across the South have named pets and children after Chipper, including Jackson, S.C. resident Hampton McIver, who was just 8-years-old when he picked out a puppy to bring home.

The small dog was rescued from a flea-infested puppy mill, and Hampton didn’t waste time finding inspiration for a name.

“I liked following the Braves even when I was little,” said Hampton, now 13. “We talked about what we should name him and that’s when ‘Chipper’ came to mind.”

Hampton plays second base for a travel baseball team in Aiken named for the Braves, and the entire McIver family follows Jones on the field and off through Jones’ Major League Bowhunter television show.

“You have to respect him,” Hampton’s father, Darren McIver, said. “He’s been good for the sport. He’s stayed with the same team his whole career, and that’s rare these days.”

As the Braves enter their final month of regular season play, they’re gearing up for one last run of Chipper parties. The promotions and ceremonies commemorating Jones’ last days on the field have already started.

The first 30,000 fans at Friday’s game in Atlanta received a free Chipper Jones commemorative print highlighting his 1999 MVP season. Another opportunity for fans to get their hands on the Jones print will come in two weeks when the Braves open an important series against the Washington Nationals Friday, Sept. 14.

Though the team has positioned itself to play into October with at least a potential wild card berth, the big party will culminate at the end of the regular season when the Braves open their final series with a Chipper Jones tribute ceremony before the Sept. 28 game against the Mets. The first 45,000 fans will receive the commemorative print and the team will auction off Jones memorabilia.

Chipper's homer lifts Braves
Timeline

• June 4, 1990 – Signed by the Atlanta Braves as the first overall pick in the MLB draft.

• April 23, 1991 – Steals third and home for the Single-A Macon Braves in a 10-5 win over the Augusta Pirates. Jones went on to hit .326 with 15 homers and 98 RBI in his first full season in the minors.

• Sept. 11, 1993 – Makes his big league debut for the Braves as a defensive sub in a 13-1 win over the Padres.

• Sept. 14, 1993 – Singles in his first major league at-bat after pinch hitting for Jeff Blauser in a 10-3 win over the Reds.

• March 19, 1994 – Tears the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. Missed the entire 1994 season as a result.

• May 9, 1995 – Hits first career home run to give the Braves a 3-2 win in Shea Stadium.

• Oct. 3, 1995 – Hits two home runs in his first ever postseason game, a 5-4 win over the Rockies in Game 1 of the National League Division Series.

• Oct. 28, 1995 – Goes 2 for 3 in Game 6 of the World Series to help the Braves beat the Indians 1-0 and claim Atlanta’s first World Series championship.

• July 9, 1996 – Starts at third base in his first of eight All-Star selections and singles.

• July 20, 1998 – Hits his 100th career home run, a two-run blast off Cubs starter Kevin Tapani in Atlanta.

• Nov. 17, 1999 – Named the National League’s MVP after hitting .319 with 45 homers and 110 RBI.

• May 6, 2001 – Hits career home runs No. 199 and 200 in the same game, a 7-5 win over the Cardinals.

• Aug. 17, 2004 – Hits his sixth home run in five games, a stretch that included career blast No. 300.

• June 16, 2007 – Records his 2,000th career hit with a single against the Indians.

• June 5, 2008 – Hits his 400th career homer in 7-5 win over the Marlins.

• Sept. 29, 2008 – Wins the batting title with a .364 average.

• Aug. 10, 2010 – Tore his anterior cruciate ligament in a game against the Astros but vows to return.

• April 8, 2011 – Records his 2,500th career hit in the Braves’ home opener against the Phillies.

• March 22, 2012 – Announces his intentions to retire at the end of the season.

• July 10, 2012 – Singles in his only at bat as a pinch hitter in the All-Star Game.

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