As a New York Mets fan, Chipper Jones' retirement is bittersweet.
On one hand, I'm glad that one of the all-time greatest and most intimidating "Met killers" won't have a chance to crush anymore homers over the Citi Field outfield walls in the years ahead.
On the other hand, Jones was a fierce competitor who always presented a tough challenge and treated baseball fans in the Big Apple with respect.
When Jones stepped up to the plate for the final time at Citi Field on Sept. 9, 2012, after tormenting the New York Mets for much of the past 19 seasons, I admit that I had the urge to stand up and heckle him with the all-too-familiar chant of "Laaaaarrrry! Laaaaarrry!"
Instead, I joined the rest of the Citi Field faithful in giving him a nice round of applause for being a worthy opponent for close to two decades, and for leaving me with a lifetime of memories.
I thought it was a wonderful show of respect that Jones named his third son Shea in honor of Shea Stadium.
Also, I'll always remember the ridiculous stats he tallied at the Mets' former home. He notched over a dozen homers at Shea Stadium, while also racking up 53 runs batted in and a .310 batting average in 84 games.
Jones played a huge factor in the New York Mets-Atlanta Braves rivalry in the late-'90s and early-2000s. Obviously, one of his biggest moments at Shea Stadium was his participation in the legendary Mike Piazza home-run game on Sept. 21, 2001, in the first baseball game in New York City following the tragedy of 9/11/01.
Jones obviously meant a lot to Mets fans as it is rare for an opposing player to receive a standing ovation in the Big Apple.
The only other time I can recall an opposing player receiving a huge standing ovation from New York fans, besides Jones earning a large applause at Citi Field on Sept. 9, was when Kobe Bryant was showered with MVP chants when he dropped 61 points on the New York Knicks in 2009.
In my view, the reason Jones sustained excellence over the years when he came to New York was due to the fact that the crowd fueled his adrenaline. He definitely rose to the occasion of playing in front of the bright lights and large crowds of New York City, and he didn't mind getting booed.
My favorite memory of Jones was during a game in 2003 when I had great seats by the third-base line at Shea Stadium. My friends and I, along with a slew of other Mets fans in the area, spent the entire game yelling at Jones, and he finally flashed a golden smile to us midway through the fifth inning.
Some pro MLB players would simply ignore the razzing or get agitated, but Jones took it like a champ and seemed to be having fun with a little good-natured ribbing.
Jones had a unique relationship with Mets fans. He understood that getting booed in the Big Apple meant that New York baseball fans admired and feared him whenever he stepped into the batter's box.
Mets fans showered him with boos and heckled him for close to two decades, but we appreciated his hard work and effort. New York baseball fans always enjoy ballplayers who leave it all out on the field. I will miss seeing him at Citi Field.
Eric Holden has been a diehard New York Mets fan since 1986. He regularly attends 30-35 games at Citi Field annually, and he had the opportunity to watch Chipper Jones play live against the Mets on several occasions over the years.
www.mlb.com, MLB, Chipper Jones stats