NEW YORK -- Chipper Jones sat in front of the New York media on Friday afternoon to field questions surrounding his final trip to Citi Field, and it will be his final trip -- the Mets made sure to confirm that he wasn't second guessing his planned retirement come season's end.
Jones is almost -- if not just -- as much a part of Mets history as any player, coach or manager actually affiliated with the team. He hit his first home run at Shea Stadium, and was on the field for Mike Piazza's emotional home run in the first post-9/11 game in New York City. Robin Ventura's famous Grand Slam Single in the 1999 National League Championship Series came against Chipper and the Braves.
"For me, every Major League ballpark is somewhat of a cathedral, but that one holds a special place for me," Jones said about Shea Stadium. "Playing on this stage is the most fun of anywhere you can play, it doesn't matter whether it's Shea Stadium or Yankee Stadium. It holds a special place.
"I've played in some epic games in that ballpark ... and I'm enough of a man to take a step back and realize that when the other team does something special, that it affects me as well. A lot of the memories I have of Shea Stadium aren't necessarily good ones, but I respect the fact that some pretty amazing players did some pretty amazing things to our ballclub over the years."
So, in honor of his favorite ballpark, Jones named his son -- who is now eight years old -- Shea.
"His room has been decorated in orange and blue from the very get-go," Jones said. "He has murals on the wall of baseball players and Shea Stadium. I've given him replicas of Shea Stadium throughout the years, he has two stadium seats in his closet bolted to the floor so he can sit in them and get dressed every morning for school. Whenever a stadium flashes up on TV, he goes, 'Is that my stadium, Dad?'"
There's a mutual respect between the Mets' fan base and Jones -- his body of work is difficult to ignore. He is labeled as the "Met killer" -- and rightly so, he was a .314 hitter against the Mets with 49 home runs entering Friday -- but his relationship with the Mets' faithful is unique. Even Friday, 19 years after that first home run, fans at Citi Field still taunted him by cheering his name -- "Laaaaaary," not Chipper.
The funny part is, he's going to miss it.