I write to you in hopes that you will reconsider your decision on retirement. The timing of this letter does nothing to help persuade you, as the wear and tear of a long baseball season that you are currently experiencing is assuredly making retirement appear more attractive. While hanging it up for good at the end of this season seems like the right call now, please keep an open mind while you read this.
Would resorting to dangling various statistic milestones within striking distance be an adequate motivator? No. Your stat line already speaks for itself. You will retire as the best third baseman of this generation. What else is there for you to do on the field? Nothing. I don't want you to play another year to pad your already gaudy career stats or chase down another player in some "all-time" category. It's more than stats that I feel you should reconsider retirement.
Would offering up a sports fan's decree that if you were to return in 2013, you would be guaranteed to hoist the World Series trophy one more time, convince you to return? Of course not. You would find that argument laughable, for you, more so than any fan, know how hard it is to win a championship. There is no guarantee in sports. Would the Braves chances of winning a championship be improved if you were on the roster next season? Yes, the impact you have in the lineup and the clubhouse cannot be duplicated with free agency acquisitions or trades.
We both know that your retirement isn't a product of an inability to produce at a high level. You are out hitting players seventeen years your junior. You are the teams best player, despite the days off needed to recoup. I am comfortable with this new playing arrangement, because having you as part of the team part of the time is much better than you not being on it at all. I know the limitations of the human body and age. When you suit up in a Braves uniform, I'm not expecting the 27 year old Chipper, nor should you.
With your body aching, your Hall of Fame ticket already punched, and a legitimate shot at another World Series title statistically unlikely, what could I possibly say that would make you consider returning? In short, I'm not ready for you to retire and neither is the game of baseball. Of course I know you don't owe me or baseball anything as you have literally spent over half of your life dedicated to one profession, one organization, and one fanbase.
As a player, you are an example of the golden standard for the game of baseball. You are the epitome of how the game should be played. Every game which you take the field is another opportunity for you to show the new generation and future generations of athletes that a player can achieve the highest levels of success in sports without cheating. You are one of the few players the game of baseball can look at as one of the few bright spots in the dark times of the steroid era. Your presence on the field or in the clubhouse is a constant reminder to the purists of the game that there are those who chose to do it right, when taking the easy way out was so readily accessible.
In regards to my personal feelings on not being ready for you to walk off into the proverbial sunset, they are nothing more than the death throes of my ever disappearing youth holding onto a time where everything was much more simple and innocent. Whether it was a game they saw on TV, a game they attended, or a chance encounter with you outside of the baseball diamond, every Braves fan has some kind of Chipper story that they can tell that brings a smile to their face.
My Chipper story occurred during a 1996 spring training game in Viera's Space Coast stadium. You were jogging on the warning track by yourself when you spotted a chunky kid wearing a Braves cap alone on the grassy knoll in left field. Being that I was the only one out on that hill, I was shocked when you stopped in the middle of your jog to waive me over. My face lit up as I grabbed my bag of baseball cards and balls and ran down to the fence to talk to you. When I arrived at the fence I was dumbfounded that you had called me over just to talk. As we conversed you casually reached for the pen I was clutching in my hand and asked if I had any baseballs that I wanted signed. You chatted with me for a solid ten minutes while you graciously signed everything I handed you—including a Fred McGriff rookie card that I handed you when I ran out of baseballs and baseball cards with you on them.
After you signed every single item I had with me that day, you stuck around and talked to me for several more minutes. You had already met the standard social protocols by signing just a single autograph, but you stuck around for some reason. After all the autographs, you stood there talking to me about the benefits of hard work, setting goals, and never giving up on dreams. We talked back and forth for a while before you asked me to rank my favorite Braves players. You seemed legitimately pleased that only David Justice was ahead of you on my list.
Despite being completely star struck, it was me who suggested that you should return to your jogging so that the coaches wouldn't get angry. Finding my sincere concern for your well-being funny, you laughed as you agreed. You shook my hand, thanked me for taking the time to talk with you, told me to remember to work hard, set goals, and to never give up on my dreams. You jogged down the warning track as I went back to my spot on the knoll while my adolescent mind tried to comprehend what I had just experienced. After you finished your exercise you waved goodbye as you headed back into the dugout.
What was just a kind gesture from you on that humid day in Florida became the hallmark for this Braves fan's youth. Your selfless act is a prime example of how great of an ambassador for the game you are and how much you mean to the fans of the game of baseball.
In all honesty, there aren't a lot of good reasons you should come back for 2013. You are only a few months away from your body finally getting a permanent reprieve from the rigors of being a professional athlete. Your name is already all over the record books, and you've won both a World Series title and an MVP award. With your performance this year, you have the opportunity to finish your career with a bang instead of a whimper. You have expressed your desire to be at home with your four boys full time for the first time in their lives.
Outside of the realm of statistics and awards, your impact beyond the diamond will be felt for years to come. Like a modern day Ivan Pavlov, whenever the intro to Crazy Train is heard, you will be the first thing that comes to the minds of millions upon millions of Braves fans.
But when you walk off the field for the last time, so does a piece of me and every Braves fan that has grown up or grown old with you. Just like a great date or vacation that is nearing its conclusion, once the realization that the end is near we desperately try to find ways to keep them going.
So if there is ever a question as to what reason there would be for you to hold off on retirement, the answer is me and the millions like me. Come back for the millions of Chipper Jones' fans across the country who aren't quite ready for the end. There isn't a player out there that makes us stand and cheer as much as you do. No one else brings as much pain to the Mets' faithful quite like you. This is more than a long shot, but this loyal Chipper fan humbly asks for just one more shot.
You told me to work hard, set goals, and never give up on a dream. Well, I worked hard on getting to a place in my life that I could become a writer covering the Braves. My goal is for this letter to reach you, and my dream is that you will find its contents moving enough to at least think about holding off you much deserved retirement for just one more year.
Whether you return or retire, thank you Chipper.
The chunky kid wearing the Braves hat
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